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I want to start this post about meal prep by saying I feel a little weird even blogging clean eating about this because none of it is rocket science but sometimes it just helps to have somebody lay it out the prep step-by-step. I’m not a terrible cook because I can follow a recipe but in general, I absolutely hate cooking. I would much rather be the one to throw together an elaborate appetizer tray and sit at your counter and drink wine while you cook. The process of cooking is a chore to me and I would rather eat out or order sushi to-go every single day of the week. This is not a good trait to have if you want to eat clean which pretty much mandates that you eat at home until you can learn to go into the wild (a.k.a a restaurant) with some self-control. In order for us to successfully complete this 21-day clean eating endeavor I had to get organized and prep for success.
For 21 days straight, Zach and I 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.
If you are interested in busting your sugar cravings, increasing your energy or just kick-starting a healthier lifestyle I urge you to eat super clean for 21 days. I’ve done Whole 30 and The Daniel Fast and honestly both of them were ok for me because a) I trolled out on potatoes once allowed for the Daniel Fast / the whole time on Whole 30 and b) I didn’t keep it up after the initial time period. This process of ridding any excess sugar & fat from diet for three weeks and forcing myself to eat bland food has really done wonders for me and has changed my overall eating habits. If you’re interested in trying it, I put together a meal plan and laid out the 10 things you must do to survive 21 days of clean eating. I’ll be sharing a ton of ideas on my instagram and pinterest account too so be sure to follow along!
10 Easy Steps To Prep For Clean Eating
1. Set aside time.
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 & meal prep.
2. Write it down.
List out exactly what you’re going to eat each week. The key to sticking with clean eating for 21 days is to plan your meals. I made the graphic below so that you could add it to Pinterest if 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 for a week of clean eating 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. 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 the key to eating clean is to prep everything. I chop up my brussel 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 on clean eating 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.
When you’re meal prepping, cut everything into bite-sized pieces! This is a pro-tip because a) it saves you space in your containers and b) it tricks your mind into thinking you are eating more than you are. This especially holds true for fruit. Fruit makes a great treat but it’s called nature’s sugar for a reason and you can’t lose weight by only eating fruit all the time. If you cut it in half it takes twice as many bites to eat and if you store in small containers you will be more likely to exercise portion control and not troll out on three pounds of strawberries. Not that there is anything wrong with strawberries so please don’t send me an email. I’m just saying if you are trying to kill the sugar urge in your body you need to practice some discipline when it comes to fruit and work to make yourself eat as many green veggies as possible.
6. Have trusty food storage containers.
Ok this one is big. If you’re going to meal prep for clean eating, you have to have containers that you can easily see what is inside of them, keep 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 an old one away one time because I was pregnant and hormonal and I couldn’t get it open and I was just over it. These Rubbermaid 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 because 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 piece BRILLIANCE set from Rubbermaid without delay. You can get it on Amazon or it is also available nationwide at Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, and most times at your local grocery store. 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 true. There are entire studies on product marketing that prove this and it’s why all the big brands pay the big bucks to be eye-level in grocery stores. I buy clean and healthy snacks like grapes and carrots and celery in bulk as I prep my meals. I put part of them in my Rubbermaid BRILLIANCEÂ 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 clean eating 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 of 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) so I would let my coffee cool down and chug it with my nose held. This is a 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 completely contradicts the step above. I think you need to plan and be determined to dominate 21 days of clean eating. However, I think you also need to realize that you are human and female so go ahead and have a plan B for the days when the wheels are falling off and you’re one step away from losing your marbles. I personally think it is only smart to know that at least one day out of 21 will go totally to hell and you’re not going to be prepared or you’re 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 only consume the bare minimum. When you meal prep for clean eating you need to make sure you have great options to have on hand for when disaster strikes, like hummus, natural (no sugar added) peanut butter and greek yogurt veggie dip (aka greek yogurt mixed with ranch seasoning). 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 went #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 clean eating but also to get myself motivated for another 21 days. I’ll be meal prepping every Sunday and sharing clean eating 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.