Cooking healthy and eating clean doesn’t have to be a long and laborious process every night. You also don’t need to search pricey health food markets for exotic ingredients (and even health food stores carry processed food). And despite misconceptions, you don’t have to make dinner a tiny little affair that is one of six meals of the day. Some of us like to eat a heartier dinner, and you can do that without a ton of calories.
Clean-eating foods are as close to their natural state as possible. The more salt and color, flavor, and texture additives used, the more processed and less nutritious food becomes. The cooking method impacts its nutritional value as well; one study showed that all methods of cooking broccoli except steaming caused significant decreases in nutritional value . So you can imagine how many nutrients a factory-processed frozen dinner has lost.
Knowing how to eat clean at home is essential, because frequent dining out is a major contributor to weight gain. Bloated portion sizes and added fat, sugar, and salt in many restaurant dishes will expand your waistline just as quickly as eating too much ice cream and chips at home. Think of dining out as a treat – something you do only occasionally. When you do dine out, monitor your portions and ask for gravy/dressing/sauce on the side, lose the cheese/bacon/butter, and split desserts.
Understand that I’m not a clean-eating purist; I don’t have a problem eating garbanzo beans out of a can. But when I do, I buy unsalted and rinse them before using. When I buy frozen vegetables, they’re unsalted, unseasoned, and unbuttered. When I buy milk, it’s organic. When I buy premade tortillas, they’re the least salted, lowest fat, and least processed I can find. I follow the 90/10 rule: I eat clean about 90 percent of the time and allow indulgences the other 10 percent. But I never crave unhealthy foods so this really isn’t a sacrifice.
Take a look at these examples of clean-eating foods and links to recipes below. Make enough for leftovers… Cooking in bulk is one of the best ways to make clean eating successful. Freeze in individual-sized portions and thaw as needed.
Pick the Right Ingredients
A simple formula for clean eating meals is to combine a lean protein, complex carb, and healthy fat in each meal. Include super foods whenever possible. Whole grains are fine in moderation; I’m not a grains-are-the-devil kind of girl. I also believe it’s really difficult for everyone to cut them out completely, so unless you’re of the Paleo mindset, just eat on whole and sprouted grains.
There are so many options for at-home cooking that are less caloric and healthier than chicken with skin, ground beef, and big, meaty steaks. Be sure to trim visible fat off of meat and eat saturated fat sparingly (check out the top sources of saturated fat).
Cook with egg whites; chicken and turkey breasts; ground chicken and turkey; eggs; white fish, tuna, and salmon; grass-fed beef; bison; tempeh; seeds and nuts; beans and legumes; pork; and low-fat cheese and yogurt. Whey protein is an excellent source as well.
Complex carbs require more energy to be digested and provide slow-burning energy. Adding a salad completes any dinner, or just be sure to include a vegetable. The brighter the color, the more nutritious (e.g., sweet potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, yellow bell peppers, dark, leafy veggies, and tomatoes). Also in this category are multi-grain and Ezekiel bread, bulgur, brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat pastas.
Healthy fats are essential to your health and should be part of your diet. Cook with avocado, olive oil, fish oil, flax seed, canola oil, coconut oil, nuts, nut butter, seeds, whole eggs, and low-fat dairy.
Enjoy these dinner recipes and browse around the sites for more ideas:
- Turkey Spinach Lasagna Roll-ups
- Jamie Eason’s Turkey Meatloaf Muffins
- Almond-Crusted Chicken Fingers
- Salmon and Blood Orange Salad
- Roasted Cod with Warm Tomato-Olive-Caper Tapenade
- Bean Bolognese
- Mediterranean Tuna and White Bean Salad Collard Wraps
- Quinoa Pasta Bowl with Spinach and Roasted Tomatoes
What do YOU do to eat clean at dinner?
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