The Benefits of Eating Clean Consistently
And how to pull it off
Sometimes it’s easier to be really disciplined about exercising and staying active regularly than it is to be eating clean consistently. And there are a million legitimate reasons for this — we make emotional associations with our food, turn to food for comfort, cut ourselves a lot of slack when out to dinner with friends, or simply get too busy with daily life and turn to processed or fast food too often.
But making clean eating the norm, rather than the exception, means you’ll be truly nourishing your body — and reaping the benefits of feeling and living healthier, including looking your best, from your skin and hair to your muscle tone.
This is where meal planning and food prepping can save your bacon. Because the happy hours and occasional fast food meals don’t set you back as much when they’re just that: occasional. Food prepping sets you up for less stress at mealtimes, clean eating habits on the regular, and better results from your workouts.
Ahead, find our trainers’ top tips for food prepping:
Use Sundays as your time to get prepared for the week and you’ll find Monday’s much easier. Try waking up with cookbook-reading sessions alongside your morning coffee to help come up with recipes to try that week. Eventually, you’ll develop a repertoire of recipes you rely on, but it’s still fun to look for new ones to keep a little variety in your meal plans. Then use your Sunday afternoons to grocery shop and Sunday evening to do a little prep work for the week.
For example, know you want to snack on cut fruit all week? Spend half an hour on Sunday chopping and packaging, and you’ll be able to quickly grab a container of fruit on the go all week long.
Keep your snacks simple.
Cut fruit and veggies with yogurt, hummus, or peanut butter. Hard-boiled eggs (which can also be prepared at the beginning of the week and kept in the fridge to grab during the week). No-bake energy or protein balls. Simple, easy-to-put-together, no-fuss snacks you can make-ahead-of-time make it just as easy to satisfy hunger as, say, Flaming Hot Cheetos, but in a much healthier way.
Most grocery stores these days are full of already prepped, healthy food that can help make your own food prep that much easier. Try pre-cut veggies or even veggie noodles — plenty of stores, even Target Grocery, are starting to carry containers of zucchini, butternut squash, and even beet noodles, which makes subbing in veggies for a portion of your pasta that much simpler. Rotisserie chickens are great value buys that work for a vast number of recipes, from healthy tacos to chicken soup. You may pay a little bit extra for some of these items, but also find they make your time in the kitchen easier and thus make eating healthy easier.
One of the best ways to get a jump on meal prep is to make double batches of recipes — one to eat that night and the other to freeze for later. Having spaghetti? It’s super simple to make your own sauce — simmer whole San Marzano tomatoes, an onion, and a healthy fat, like olive oil (you can even grate in veggies like carrots, zucchini, or roasted bell pepper) — so make a double batch and you’ll have it in the freezer for the next spaghetti night.
Training your brain to think in bulk and stock your freezer will go a long way towards saving you time during the week. Use Sundays to make and freeze muffin tins of omelettes/frittatas for healthy grab-and-go breakfasts throughout the week. Are you a smoothie fan? Try pre-bagging and freezing your smoothie ingredients for the week so that all you have to do in the morning is grab one, add liquid, and blend.
When it comes to grocery shopping.
Don’t shop hungry — you’ll find it easier to stick to your plan and less tempted by impulse buys. Try to do most of your shopping around the perimeter of the store, where the fresh produce, meat, and fish live. This will help you avoid much of the processed food that lives in the center aisles.
And finally, before you go to the store or even sit down to meal plan, shop your fridge and freezer first. The whole point of meal planning and food prepping is that you don’t want to be starting from zero every night. Instead, you want to retrain your brain to think about what ingredients you’ll have leftover each night of the week, and how you can get a couple of different meals out a Sunday batch of grilled chicken breasts. Maybe the leftovers from the pork tenderloin you grill for dinner one night would make the perfect salad topping for lunch the next day.
Starting to think in those terms will help you from feeling like you have to be Julia Child every night you make a meal. Sometimes it’s fun to spend an hour in the kitchen on a Tuesday making a special dinner. Sometimes, it’s Monday, and you want to spend as little time as possible. But planning ahead and prepping for those days means it can be just as simple to eat healthy at home as it is to run through a drive-through.
Good luck getting started with your clean eating journey! With these tips, we know you’ll be well on your way to feeling better and seeing better fitness results.
Have any tips of your own? Let us know in the comments below.