by Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD
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. That's why we're bringing you SHAPE's 7-Day Clean Eating Challenge. 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 of meals. You're free to pick and choose your favorite recipes or create your own (as long as you stick to the rules). Check it out and get ready to reboot your body and kick off the New Year right!
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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. Slow down: Put your fork or spoon down between every bite, and focus on the flavors and textures of your food.
4. Eat on a 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.
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Ready to put your diet into action? Each day eat three clean eating meals and one snack. Here I've outlined a breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner option for day one of your clean eating.
Breakfast: Cook old-fashioned quick cooking oats using organic skim or soy milk. Top with a sliced apple and garnish with chopped walnuts.
Lunch: 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 fine) and sliced avocado.
Snack: Drizzle a little honey into a container of nonfat Greek yogurt, fold in a sliced mini banana and garnish with sliced almonds.
Dinner: Sauté onion, halved grape tomatoes and chopped green bell pepper in extra virgin olive oil until slightly tender. Add chicken breast or organic tofu to heat through. Serve over whole wheat penne.
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by Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD