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. 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.
1. Eat only whole foods
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.
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. 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.
3. Eat slower
Put your fork or spoon down between every bite, and focus on the flavors and textures of your food. It helps digestive process work better when you eat slowly and chew carefully.
4. Eat on regular schedule
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.
5. Listen to your body
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.