Clean Eating Menu & Mini Challenge! – follow this simple 5 day plan for a reset on your healthy eating goals! Participate for your chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card!
Hey friends! Who’s up for a little challenge?? If you are sick of the winter blahs, ready to kick start some healthy habits, or need a little motivation to clean up your diet, this is for you so keep reading!
This week instead of posting just my normal menu and meal prep guide, I am including an extra fun element to get us all motivated to eat cleaner and feel better. I’m hosting a 5 Day Clean Eating Challenge here and on my social media pages! Prizes included! Simply make one of the recipes from the Meal Plan and share it on social media to be entered to win a $50 Amazon gift card (see more details at the end of this post!)
So often I hear that “I want to eat clean but I don’t know where to start.” Well, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be complicated. By beginning with a few baby steps and committing to your goals, it can be done. This 5 Day Mini Challenge will introduce you to eating only real, whole foods, cutting out the processed junk, and how to organize your meals around these goals.
Why is Clean Eating Important?
Well, to put it simply, our bodies weren’t designed to handle all the highly processed junk that’s become the standard American diet. It’s no wonder that obesity, autoimmune disease, and cancer are so prevalent and on the rise. It’s been proven over and over that a nutrient-dense diet of whole foods can help to reduce inflammation, provide more energy, heal autoimmune conditions, and lower the risk of disease. I love Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food, for a basic overview of clean eating principles and why it’s important.
Here are my Top 8 Clean Eating Guidelines that helped me to transition to a clean eating lifestyle. Clean Eating can look a little different to different people but this is a good beginning foundation. Remember, you don’t have to do everything at once. Even picking just one or two things from this list to implement is a great place to start!
Clean Eating Guidelines
Eat Whole Foods
Choose fruits, veggies, pure protein sources, and whole grains. It’s that simple. The food we eat should be nutrient dense and as close to its natural state as possible. Ideally, it won’t come from a factory or in a box!
Cut Out Processed Food
So much of what we consume is highly processed products. Our bodies weren’t designed to handle these “food-like” substances! Not only are they lacking nutrients and nutritional value, but they often contain harmful ingredients. Common culprits to avoid are snack/granola bars, soda, most breakfast cereals, salad dressings, chips/crackers, baked goods, etc.
Drink LOTS of Water
Aim for at least half your body weight (in ounces) per day. I like to fill an oversized mason jar first thing in the morning and just refill it several times a day. Elimiate soda (even diet), fruit juices with added sugars (real and artificial), and other sweetened beverages that are nothing but empty calories.
Read Nutrition Labels
If I could emphasize one thing, this would be it! If it comes in a package, ALWAYS check the nutrition label! Look at the ingredients – are there more than five? Do you recognize the ingredients? A good rule of thumb is to aim for products that contain less than five ingredients.
Avoid Refined Sugar
The bad news is refined white sugar is toxic to our bodies, promotes inflammation, and is highly addictive. The good news? We don’t need sugar in our diets like we need vitamins, minerals, and protein. Eliminate it whenever possible and use natural sweeteners like honey, pure maple syrup, and fruits instead.
Veggies With Every Meal
We’ve been trained to build our meals around meat and carbs, but they should actually be a pretty small portion of the plate. Start by filling half your plate with veggies and you can’t go wrong! Tip: for getting your veggies in at breakfast, add spinach to a smoothie!
Include Healthy Fats
If you want to feel satisfied and full longer, include healthy fats with every meal. By healthy fats, I mean olive, avocado, and coconut oils (skip the vegetable oils – they are HIGHLY processed), nuts and seeds, avocadoes, olives, eggs, etc.
Cook Your Own Food
To eat clean, you need to be in charge of what goes into your food. The easiest way to do this is to cook your own meals, at home, where you control the ingredients. Restaurant meals are fine now and then, but stick to homemade as much as possible.
Clean Eating Meal Plan – Week of May 19
Monday: Sheet Pan Sausage & Veggies
Wednesday: Instant Pot Turkey & Sweet Potato Chili
Thursday: Asian Chicken Chopped Salad
Friday: Cajun Sausage & Veggie Kabobs
Meal Prep Plan
Breakfast: Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs
Breakfast: Make Ahead Smoothie Packets
Protein: Instant Pot Taco Meat
Protein: Instant Pot Shredded Chicken
Sides: Salad Greens
Sides: Veggie Tray (cut veggies of choice and replenish mid-week)
Clean Eating Meal Prep Strategy
Meal Prep is my secret for keeping things simple throughout the week and staying on track. Here’s my basic Meal Planning strategy for a family of 4, which is totally open to interpretation and can easily be modified to meet your own preferences, tastes, and time constraints. Use this free printable template for designing your own menu and meal prep plan.
- Plan 4-5 dinner meals for the week. I do this on Friday or Saturday for the week ahead so there is time to grocery shop and meal prep. When I’m planning weeknight meals, I take into account our family schedule, weeknight events, and how much time is available for cooking on any given night. I also do a check of my freezer, fridge, and pantry to see what can or needs to be used.
- Make a Meal Prep list of at least 1-2 breakfast items, 1-2 proteins (this is my favorite source of organic and grass fed meats) for lunches, 2-3 sides/snacks, and any extras needed for meals. This takes the guesswork out of breakfast and lunch, and cuts down on the urge to eat out or grab something unhealthy.
- Make a shopping list of everything needed for planned dinners and meal prep items. Don’t forget to double check your current stash first!
- Do your grocery shopping and spend a couple of hours on Saturday or Sunday tackling the meal prep list. Be sure to multi-task while meal prepping! While one thing is cooking, work on other items on your list.
- Bonus tip: I stay stocked up on pantry essentials with Thrive Market. Once or twice a month, I take inventory and stock up on organic tomatoes, beans, broth, baked goods ingredients, spices, and a few convenience snacks.
What to Eat for Breakfast and Lunch
I like to keep it simple by building meals from my meal prep stash and adding veggies and fruit to every meal. It’s totally up to you – but try stick to the guidelines above. Leftovers from the night before are a great option too. Always include a big glass of water!
What to Eat When You Need a Snack
Hit up your veggie tray or fruit bowl or keep a stash of your favorite clean eating snacks and pantry items to choose from. Pickles, olives, almonds, Larabars, meat sticks, and hard boiled eggs are a few of my favorites.
Let’s Get Started!
To participate in the Clean Eating Challenge, simply follow the guidelines above for the week of May 19! Let me know you are participating and get entered to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card! Here’s how to be entered:
Make one of the recipes above on the menu, share a picture and tag me on Instagram using the hashtag #ttcleaneatingchallenge. OR
Leave a comment on this post telling me which of the 8 Clean Eating Guidelines you’ll be focusing on.
That’s it! Let’s make it a great week!
Make your own Meal Plan! Click here for the blank printable template