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If you’ve been following this blog or my instagram for any amount of time you know that I’ve only been blogging consistently for about a year. That is because up until then I was literally pregnant, breast-feeding, pregnant again and breast feeding again for a solid 3 years. I’ve been taking my time losing the baby weight mostly because I’ve had an excuse until now but partly because with two jobs and two babies I haven’t really had that many extra brain cells or energy to devote to the cause. Now that Scottie is a year and a half this will be the first summer that I officially can’t have the excuse of “oh yeah I have a newborn” because she will probably be running and jumping off the high dive. I decided it was time to get serious and get my athletic body back this spring so Zach and I decided to do 3 weeks of clean eating as a little kick-start. For 21 days straight we ate only lean protein, green veggies, berries + apples for a treat and Melba toast when we felt like we were going to die if we didn’t have a carb. For beverages all we had was water and more water, black coffee and green tea. I not only started dropping the pounds but I have more energy and am loving the fact that I’m starting to look and feel like myself again.
10 Easy Steps To Prepare for a Week of Clean Eating
1. Set aside time to prep.
If you have kids then do this Sunday afternoon during nap (or movie) time, when they go to bed Sunday night or early Monday morning. If you don’t have kids then the world is your oyster, just carve out 2 hours to shop & prep.
2. Make a meal plan.
For our 21 day cleanse we only ate lean protein + green veggies + fruit in moderation. I made the graphic below so that you could add it to Pinterest f you needed a list of easy clean eating dinners. It only addresses dinner because we would eat salads every day for lunch or sometimes I would scramble myself some egg whites. To stick within our clean eating guidelines for the salads we would do lettuce + veggies + a protein and either a no calorie dressing or the healthiest vinaigrette we could make from a tiny bit of olive oil and vinegar + seasonings. For the lettuce wraps I would just brown ground chicken on the stove, add salt + pepper and then top with shredded carrots, cucumbers and diced tomatoes. For breakfast we wouldn’t eat and just drink black coffee (a.k.a. intermittent fasting) or we would have an apple.
3. Get organized.
If you are going to successfully meal prep you can’t be spending all day doing it because you will just give up or quit. The key here is to be fast and efficient. Here is how we do it. When you get home from the store put everything on the counter with a cutting board, knife, strainer, bowl for remnants and your containers of choice. If your trashcan is next to your prep station then you won’t need the bowl but I like it so that I can just throw in the ends I cut from the fruit and veggies to keep me from walking over to the trashcan every two seconds. The first thing I do is wash my fruit and then lay it out on paper towels to dry. Then while those are drying off I wash and prep my veggies. I circle back to the fruit and then I save my meat for last. Which if I’m being 100% honest I save the fact that my husband cuts up the meat for last. You see I’ve had an aversion to chicken since I was pregnant with Hayden and while I am finally able to eat grilled chicken I can’t quite get near the raw version without a gag or 10. Also, salmonella totally freaks me out and I handle it as if there has been an anthrax outbreak in our kitchen. Remember how I said I don’t cook???
4. Prep everything. And I mean everything in advance.
Seriously everything. I chop up my brussels sprouts and asparagus so that all I have to do is pre-heat the oven, spray a pan, dump out the container and top with salt and pepper. Maybe I’m extreme but if I have to wash something, dry it, cut it and then prep it that’s just one more opportunity for me to give up and call the pizza man. Another thing I do is go ahead and snap my asparagus in half because I like it crunchier and it stores better. For the chicken I buy a huge thing of it and half it. I marinate one half in a certain dressing and then chop up the other half for kabobs and marinate it in a different dressing. We really love Italian and Ginger Sesame dressings for marinating. I also go ahead and open cans or put fresh veggies in containers for the girls that I can easily pop in the microwave. When it’s the witching hour every second counts – no opening, pouring, rinsing, draining, putting into a bowl, microwaving etc. Just a pre-made container of black beans, lima beans or corn for the girls that I can nuke for 30 seconds and serve.
5. Bite sized pieces are your friend.
6. Have trusty containers.
Ok this one is big. You have to have containers that you can easily see what is inside of them, that keeps your food fresh and that aren’t a pain in the rear to open and close. I really really love the Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE™ line. They are 100% Leak Proof. Guaranteed. This is crucial for salmonella freaks like me. Seriously when you close them you can actually hear them sealing but the best part is you don’t need to get a wrench from the garage to open them back up. How many of you have struggled to open your food containers? I honestly threw one away one time because I was pregnant and hormonal and I couldn’t get it open and I was just over it. These containers have these really easy to open latches on the side and maybe I’m just dramatic but when I’m forcing myself to eat celery for a snack it better be in an easy-to-open container or I’m falling right off the wagon. The 10 pc BRILLIANCE™ set is not only sleek and pretty (which I love bc hello I write a style blog) but they are also stain and odor resistant, crystal clear so you can see what is inside, splatter resistant for the microwave and they also stack perfectly. I really don’t know what else to say other than I heart these containers so much. If you are looking to up your refrigerator style game then you need to check out the 10 pc BRILLIANCE™ set from Rubbermaid® without delay. You can get it here or it is also available nationwide at Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Amazon and other fine retailers. I gave a set to two of my friends and they absolutely love them. One is a maker of soups and all things homemade and the other is a hoarder of candy and cheeses and they are both equally addicted to them.
7. Keep your eye on the prize.
I’m sure you have all read the article in the health magazines that say have healthy snacks at eye level but it’s so important. There are entire studies on product marketing that prove this fact to be true and it’s why all the big brands pay the big bucks to be eye-level in grocery stores. I buy healthy snacks like grapes and carrots and celery in bulk. I put part of them in my Rubbermaid® BRILLIANCE™ containers right at eye level and the rest I store in those handy but easily forgotten fruit and veggie drawers. Maybe I am weak minded but I’m much more likely to reach for a carrot or stick of celery when it’s the first thing I see.
8. Force a habit.
This is the hardest of the steps because it deals with commitment. You have to commit to making this a success and turning over a new healthy leaf. This means that you are going to have to fake it until you make it with some of your vices. The hardest thing ever for me was learning to like black coffee. I am a coffee connoisseur. Some of my favorite memories from traveling to Israel, Italy and Paris was the coffee I got to drink. Espresso and Cappuccinos are a LOVE LANGUAGE for me. I honestly think I could survive off or coffee alone or at least I would die a happy death. If you know you know and if you don’t then you probably think I’m a freak but I obviously don’t care. In the beginning I loathed the taste of black coffee but obviously needed the espresso (thank you two children under age three) so I would let my coffee cool down and chug it with my nose held. This is trick I learned from one of my nurse friends and I will be forever indebted to her. Slowly but surely I would take more and more time to drink this black poison and once I was riding my body of all the excess sugar I actually started to like it. However I want to be perfectly clear I plan on picking up my Cappuccino addiction asap.
9. Have A Plan B.
Ok this complete contradicts the step above but I just need to be honest with you all. I think that you need to plan to dominate 21 days and be hard core and determined. However, I think you also need to realize that you are human and female and go ahead and have a plan b for the days when the wheels are falling off and you’re 1 step away from losing your marbles. I personally think it is only smart to know that at least 1 day out of 21 will go totally to hell and you’re not going to be prepared or your just going to need a cheat so that nobody gets hurt. For this reason I recommend finding the absolute healthiest thing you can pair with raw veggies for a snack and to only consume the bare minimum. Great options to have on hand for when disaster strikes are hummus, natural (no sugar added) peanut butter and greek yogurt veggie dip (aka greek yogurt mixed with ranch seasoning). Try not to ever have to use these secret weapons and if you do don’t totally give up but just make healthier choices the next day. Maybe if you need a little peanut butter or some fake ranch dip to survive then the next day you work to eat only veggies and no fruit. It’s all about trying to continually make healthier choices until you force a habit. Then once you have toned up or kicked those sugar cravings for good you can introduce these healthier alternatives for good and in moderation.
10. Reward yourself!
This one is my favorite. One great idea is set aside all of the money you would be spending on coffee, fast food or eating out for the three weeks and treat yourself to a new outfit. You can also do silly little rewards to keep yourself motivated. For example, when I was doing the cleanse the first time around my daughter was also potty training. She had a chart and got stickers for every time she wen’t #1 or #2 and I had a chart for every time I survived a meal. Judge me if you want but smiley face stickers on a grid do wonders for my emotional state.
So there you have it! I posted this blog partially because of all of the questions I get on Instagram about the cleanse but also to get myself motivated for another 21 days. Zach and I are heading to a brand new resort in Mexico at the end of the month and I want to feel awesome in a bikini. I’ll be meal prepping every Sunday and sharing recipes on my instagram and pinterest account if you want to follow along. Also if you have any super clean and non-potato paleo recipes please please please share them with me below! I love to add things to my clean eating board for when I get in a rut.