Healthy Meal Prep • What is Clean Eating for Beginners
Below you will find my healthy meal prep ideas and tips guide. If you’re unclear about what is clean eating – I go into a little detail to help guide you on how to eat clean the right way. Keep scrolling down and check out our simple meal prep infographic.
What is Clean Eating?
It’s not your fault you never truly learned what eating clean is and isn’t. Our society throws marketing slogans like “heart healthy” and “all natural” at us that makes us think this is “healthy food”. Sorry to say it, but we’re being lied to, or just misled in the majority of these claims. They’re essentially stretching the truth. Read more here and here about this.
To clear things up, I’ve created a short guide to help you eat clean:
• Avoid bad processed foods: highly processed foods are foods that have essentially no nutrition left in them. Always read labels and if you notice the ingredients list is full of chemicals and things you can’t pronounce, avoid it! Also, any foods that are made to last for a long time on a shelf in a store are essentially filled with preservatives and chemicals to extend their expiration date. yuck.
• Avoid artificial ingredients. Going along with #1 above – Artificial = FAKE. Why eat fake, when you can have real? Ingredients will actually say “artificial flavors” or “artificial colors” – just avoid these, they are NOT eating clean.
• Avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Always read labels. Nutrition labels tell you how many (if any) of these are in your foods.
• Follow a handy food list. Check out our Clean Eating Grocery List for Beginners for what is and what isn’t “Clean”.
• Drink lots of water. The best way I have heard to calculate a good amount for you is to take your body weight, halve it and drink that number in ounces of water each day. Example: you weigh 150 lbs, drink 75 oz of water a day.
• Eat more veggies and fruits. Fruit and veggies both contain vitamins, fiber and other nutrients that help your body to thrive. Get a few servings a day of each. More if you can! Eat a rainbow too – meaning eat all different colored veggies and fruits. Read more about eating a rainbow. Fruits and vegetables should be your #1 priority when eating clean.
• Count nutrients NOT calories. It’s been ingrained in our minds that counting calories is the important thing to do when trying to lose weight. Well, it’s not. Don’t feel bad if you fell for this, I did too. Not all calories are created equal. For example: 500 calories of a home cooked meal including veggies, lean proteins and whole grains is a billion times more nutritious than 500 calories of McDonalds (is it even possible to get a meal this low of calories at McDonalds??). The McDonalds meal provides us with little to none nutrients, saturated fats and (in the end) health issues.
That said – let’s face it, life gets in the way of your clean eating goals sometimes. Packed schedules (your own AND the rest of your family’s) not only have the tendency to interrupt cooking and mealtimes but can also derail your diet. After all, fast food–while overall horrible for you–IS super convenient for those busy, grab-and-go type days.
One of the BEST ways to set yourself up for a week of clean eating is to prepare in bulk some of your favorite healthy meals ahead of time. And while it can sound a little intimidating to cook a bunch of food at once, it’s actually a lot easier, less expensive, and less time-consuming than you think.
Healthy Meal Prep Ideas Made Easy: Top 5 Tips
1. Clean kitchen, clean food! Before beginning any healthy meal prep, start with a tidy workspace. Having your counters and tabletops tidy along with all your kitchen essentials ready–including knives, pots, pans, glass or plastic food containers, and lunch bag–keeps your meal prep moving efficiently. It’s also handy to set out a large bowl or plastic bag somewhere on the counter for easy disposal of trash–this keeps you from having to continually walk over to and/or open your trash bin. I like this Scrap Trap (see image below) for peelings and scraps as I meal prep.
2. Stick to simple recipes. As they say, the road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions! While trying new things is always a fun and easy way to spice up your healthy meal prep, it’s not wise to try a brand new or complicated recipe on prep days. Set yourself up for success by sticking to a few simple, healthy, and yummy meals that aren’t intimidating to prepare and will be appealing to you throughout the week.
3. You don’t have to “cook” everything. Many of the healthiest food choices require no cooking at all, including your favorite veggies and fruits. Clean eating recipes aren’t always “cooked”. Raw food is clean too! And while chopping up produce may deplete some of their nutritional value, it’s worth it if it means that you’ll be more likely to eat said produce during the week because of the convenience factor of having a prepared snack. Store cook-free prep foods, like fruits, veggies, and nuts, in single serving sizes for quick out-the-door options–or in larger containers, if you know you’ll be good about portion control. Meal prep containers are also great for helping with portioning out your meals and storing in the fridge for the upcoming week.
4. Make a “day” of it. Do your healthy meal prep on the same day as your main grocery haul. For most people, Saturday or Sunday are the easiest days to do this. Set aside a good chunk of time in the afternoon to head to the nearby market and load up on your pre-planned clean eating foods. One major shopping trip during the week eliminates your need to make several smaller trips to the store–at times when you may be in a pinch and more likely to be tempted to grab an unhealthy but quick meal. Then, aim to do your clean eating meal prep shortly after you arrive home. This way, the food is stocked from the get-go with healthy, convenient options for the next several days.
5. Make your staples–and then mix it up a bit. Even though healthy food is yummy food, it can become a little mundane eating the same thing every day. Fortunately, there are several options to help keep your prepared clean food enticing all week, like adding different spices, herbs, and good oils or fats with each meal, eating your prepared meals at different times on different days, and throwing some of your prepared meat or veggies over fresh salad greens or scrambled eggs.
Hope you enjoy these healthy meal prep ideas. Do you have any clean eating meal prep tips of your own? We want to hear about it. Share in the comments below!