In the past few years, you’ve probably heard the term “clean eating” somewhere. Whether it’s from your gym-obsessed friend or a fitness influencer you follow online, the term has most likely popped up in your periphery. These days, finding easy clean eating meal prep recipes and ideas is quite the craze.
Like many others, you may be confused about the term; what exactly is clean eating? Well for one, it’s not a diet.
So, what is it?
It’s more of a lifestyle.
Clean eating focuses on eating foods in their most natural state: pure and non-processed. It’s about consuming food that has been untouched by chemicals.
This concept may sound familiar due to another food craze: Whole30. However, they are not the same. For starters, Whole30 is a diet. It rules out certain ingredients in all forms, such as sugar and alcohol, while clean eating allows you to eat them, but only a select few.
Another difference? Well, it’s all in the name. Whole30 lasts for 30 days. Make one mistake, and you’re back to day one. Since clean eating is more of a lifestyle, so if you happen to slip up, it’s fine! You’re not obligated to stick to it by any means.
If it’s not Whole30, is it Paleo?
It would make sense that you would think that as well. The Paleo diet, short for Paleolithic, is meant to resemble what our ancestors ate: clean, whole foods with absolutely no processing. Although it does sound pretty similar to clean eating, it’s not the same.
There are items that our ancestors didn’t have that are still considered clean today. Anything from red wine to homemade pizza can be consumed under the clean eating lifestyle.
How do I eat clean?
It depends on what you want out of it. Are you just looking for clean eating meal prep ideas? Or do you want some clean eating meal prep ideas for weight loss? Either way, ThinkFit has the best clean eating meal plan for you.
Some people opt for a 30-day clean eating plan (no, it’s still not Whole30). Have you ever had a few bad weeks where you didn’t eat the best, maybe opting for takeout rather than a home cooked meal? Or maybe you’ve been out a bit too many times and you’re looking to limit how much alcohol you consume.
The 30-day clean eating plan is most likely for you! Since clean eating aims to make you feel clean on the inside, a 30-day reset is exactly what you need. For starters, clean eating doesn’t allow for processed foods, so eating out is already out of the question.
While clean eating doesn’t completely rule alcohol out, most of it isn’t allowed while clean eating. Additionally, alcohol is a depressant that dehydrates you. Since the point of clean eating is to make you feel whole within, it’s best to avoid it the best you can.
However, if you are looking to have a drink or two during the 30 days, stick to alcohols such as wine and clear, gluten-free spirits such as tequila, vodka, and rum.
If you want to transition to a clean eating lifestyle for more than just 30 days, consider clean eating as a full time dietary change. This takes clean eating to new heights, fulfilling the “lifestyle” part of it. Basically, this is a commitment to eat clean permanently (or until you get tired of it).
The difference between this and the 30-day is the level of commitment.
When starting the 30-day clean eating challenge, there is an end in sight. You can always start the plan knowing that at the end, there’s a plethora of non-clean foods that are waiting for you.
With the full time dietary change, you have to completely let go of foods that aren’t clean.
Now that you have a better understanding of what clean eating is, you probably have one more lingering question…
Is clean eating right for me?
Well if you fall into any of these categories, then yes.
If you’re looking to lose weight:
When clean eating, you need to avoid processed foods. These foods often consist of things such as trans and saturated fats, processed sugar, and sugary drinks such as soda and juice. You’ll also need to avoid fast food and takeout at all costs.
All these foods and ingredients can cause you to put on weight. Avoiding them, while eating cleaner, can help you to shed a few excess pounds of fat. Even though clean eating isn’t a weight loss diet, shedding unneeded fat is always a plus!
If you’re vegan, vegetarian, plant-based, or pescatarian:
These days, it’s not uncommon to find it hard to avoid meat that hasn’t been processed. While clean eating can definitely be practiced by meat-eaters, it’s also great for those who don’t eat meat.
A lot of people switch to these different diets in order to have a more balanced palate that makes them feel whole inside.
Ingredients like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fresh seafood are already part of clean eating. If you fall under one of these diets, clean eating might further enrich the food journey that you have embarked on!
If you find yourself feeling tired, sluggish, or bloated throughout the day:
Do you ever find yourself needing a pick me up during the middle of the day? This is only one of the signs that you’re eating too much processed food.
When you eat, the food you consume is meant to fuel you and give you energy. If you find that what you eat does the exact opposite, you should consider switching to clean eating.
When you make the switch to a cleaner diet, you’ll notice that you’ll feel healthier and more energized; your skin may even start to glow, as well! Without the added salt, sugar, and fats of additives, you’ll achieve a healthier sense of being.
Now that you know the benefits of clean eating, where does meal prep fit in?
Making the switch to clean eating isn’t always easy. So much of the average diet is filled with processed food: takeout after a long day, fast food breakfast on the way to work, a meal from the frozen aisle of the grocery store for lunch.
When you’re completely changing the way that you eat, it’s important to have a set plan of what you’re going to cook. With meal prepping, you can plan out what you’re going to eat for the week, so you’ll have no excuses for processed food.
So, what’s the first step to making a clean eating meal plan?
It’s really simple: making a grocery list.
Grocery stores are oversaturated with so many products; it can be overwhelming by just walking in there and making a plan for your meal prep as you go. Otherwise, you might overspend or waver from what you planned on buying.
Fruits and vegetables:
This is probably a given; they grow naturally from the earth. Could they be any cleaner?
When buying produce, don’t feel pressured to buy the produce that’s specifically labeled as organic unless you want to. If money is a concern it’s better to eat produce that’s not organic than not eating produce at all!
The best way to ensure that you’re getting the most quality produce at a great price?
Go to your local farmer’s market!
Not only are you supporting local produce growers, but you’re getting to know where the food you’re putting in your body is coming from.
As for what specific vegetables to buy, there are no restrictions to what you can eat. As long as there are no preservatives or additives, they’re all acceptable.
When shopping make sure to include a variety of vegetables, from leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and lettuce, to more colorful options, like bell peppers, carrots, and squash.
As for fruits, any fruit that doesn’t have preservatives and additives can be consumed while clean eating. Since processed sugars aren’t allowed while clean eating, try to take advantage of nature’s candy instead.
Rather than eating a processed dessert, opt for a sweeter fruit, such as a mango or nectarine. Since the sugar in fruit is natural, you don’t have to worry about cutting it out of your diet: just eat them in moderation.
Meat, Seafood, and Protein:
When buying meat, look at the label.
It’s important to know where it’s coming from so you can avoid the ones that are processed. If possible, go to a butcher: knowing where your meat comes from can give you a little bit more peace of mind.
For pork, avoid forms of it such as hot dogs, ham, and Canadian bacon. These cuts are processed and filled with excessive amounts of salt. Instead, buy cuts of meat such as pork chops and tenderloin.
When buying beef, choose the ones that are derived from grass-fed and humanely raised cows. It’s important to make sure that the meat you eat was also a clean eater, otherwise, you’ll just end up consuming whatever they were fed. Some cows are fed animal by-product and are injected with hormones and antibiotics.
When it comes to poultry, look beyond the packaging. Just because it’s labeled as “natural” doesn’t mean that it’s clean. A lot of chicken will say that it’s “enhanced” with sodium solutions. This code word should tell you not to buy it. When looking at the ingredient list, if there are any added solutions to it, it’s not clean.
Additionally, you want to make sure you’re buying the freshest chicken you can. When you inspect the fat on it, the color should be white or yellow, not gray.
You should also try to buy poultry that is classified as free range; this means that the chickens roamed free, without the cruelty of a cage. For a whole list of what labels from certified organic to vegetarian-fed truly mean, click here.
Okay, but what about eggs?
Buy the eggs that are cage free, as they come from more humane practices than caged eggs. While the most nutritious part of the egg is in the yolk, if you choose to eat egg whites only, don’t buy the ones that come in a carton, as they tend to have added preservatives. Just separate the white of the egg from the yolk.
One major thing to avoid when buying seafood is farm raised seafood. It’s best to buy wild caught seafood. This is the cleaner version. When seafood is wild caught, they’re caught in their natural environment, where it hasn’t had the chance to be subjected to antibiotics and hormones.
As for what type of seafood to buy, you can get any kind. Just make sure that it’s hormone free and wild caught.
For those of you who don’t eat meat, tofu is a great protein-filled alternative. Even though tofu is technically a processed item, if you buy the organic version, it classifies as a clean eating ingredient.
Oils from plants and nuts such as coconuts, avocados, almonds, and olives are the best to get for clean eating. These oils tend to be organic and not processed. “So all oils are good?” you might ask.
Not so fast.
As for which oils to avoid, stay away from high GMO oils like soybean, canola, and vegetable oil.
Nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, chia seeds, and hazelnuts are excellent for clean eating. They come from the earth and aren’t difficult to come by. They can also add some protein to your diet and make a great midday snack.
When purchasing grains, there’s a plethora of options you can get. Whole grains such as brown, wild, jasmine, and basmati rice are great for clean eating. You can also use grains like quinoa and barley.
Avoid processed grains, like white rice.
For flour, buy unbleached flours such as almond, buckwheat, coconut, and chickpea flour.
When it comes to bread, try not to buy overly processed bread. The ones with the fewest ingredients, such as wholewheat flour, water, yeast, salt, and honey, are the best types of bread to buy.
Spices and Condiments:
It’s best to avoid spice mixes that have been pre-made as they can hide quite a bit of sugar and salt. However, this doesn’t mean that your food must lack flavor.
You can always make your own spice mixes.
Use plain herbs and spices such as cumin, basil, oregano, sea salt, and crushed pepper flakes. Condiments like ketchup are filled with artificial sugar and highly processed, so it’s best to make your own.
If you’re looking for something to sweeten up a meal, look for organic options such as honey, agave nectar, pure maple syrup, and molasses.
Although raw cow milk is the most ideal form of milk for clean eating, this is quite hard to come by, so it’s best to go with the organic version at the grocery store.
Full-fat milk also obeys the clean-eating guidelines. Interestingly enough, the lower the amount of fat there is, the more processed the milk is.
If you’re lactose-intolerant, this could be a bit tricky.
Milk alternatives made from almonds, soy, and rice tend to be over-processed. You can always look out for the ones with the least amount of ingredients on the label, but they can be quite hard to come by. If you’re really looking to have a clean dairy alternative, you could always make your own.
For yogurt, always buy plain, unsweetened yogurt. You can always add honey for some extra sweetness. It’s also best to not get the ones labelled fat free or reduced fat, as these yogurts are processed.
When it comes to cheese, although it can be seen as clean, make sure to eat it in moderation due to its high fat levels.
Avoid shredded cheese, since they tend to be highly processed. Buy organic blocks of cheese and use a grater instead.
Now that you have all your ingredients, let’s get into the fun part: the food.
Down below, we’ve rounded up some of the best easy clean eating meal prep recipes.
These quick and easy blueberry almond crumble muffins are a great way to start out your day.
Made from almond flour and arrowroot starch, the mashed sweet potato gives these muffins an unexpected punch of flavor.
French toast is reimagined with this banana French toast recipe. Made with whole wheat bread, a bit of orange juice and zest is added to give this recipe an interesting twist.
These delicious chicken pesto bowls are great for a quick lunch. With a few simple ingredients like brown rice, cherry tomatoes, and green beans, you really can’t go wrong with this classic.
This hearty shrimp and vegetable red rice salad offers a melody of flavor with shallot, Dijon mustard, and sugar snap peas. If shrimp or red rice isn’t your taste, you can always substitute it with something else, such as chicken and brown rice.
This lemon chicken with asparagus recipe features only five ingredients: chicken, lemon, asparagus, lemon pepper, and flour (unbleached, of course). Don’t let the limited amount of ingredients fool you, though. This meal is just as delicious as it looks.
The Mediterranean diet has been hailed by many as an excellent clean eating diet. With this Greek zoodle recipe, you can eat like you’re on a beach in Santorini in only ten minutes.
This spicy veggie and lentil soup is a perfect hearty meal for a chilly night. With ingredients such as smoked paprika, cauliflower, and garlic, this soup will leave you feeling warm and full.
With all these clean eating meal prep ideas, we bet you can’t wait to start cooking them. However, where will you put it if you don’t have enough room?
Luckily for you, ThinkFit has our very own set of meal prep containers that are great for storing foods and keeping them fresh.
But wait - before you go:
We want to leave you with a few resources that will help you jumpstart your clean eating journey.
This clean eating cookbook offers over 100 recipes, along with a 14-day meal plan that includes a grocery list and weekly menus that help you create a seamless transition from your regular diet to a clean eating lifestyle.
It also includes an introduction to what clean eating is, as well as tips that help you stick to the clean eating commitment.
Clean Eating Magazine is an excellent resource for all your clean eating questions. They have everything from recipes, meal plans, and even articles on clean living. The website also has a subscription service that includes extra features such as giveaways, webinars, and a shopping cart builder.
We also have a few tips for you if you’re really struggling with clean eating.
1. Practice intuitive eating.
When eating, pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after eating. It’s important to eat when you’re hungry and to stop when you become full.
Clean eating isn’t just about eating whole ingredients; it’s about making sure you feel wholly yourself. Try to avoid poor eating habits such as over eating, not eating in order to lose weight, and eating when bored.
This is easier said than done, especially with our hectic lifestyles.
2. Pay attention to labels.
Buzzwords like “natural” have become fads in the food world. By now, we’re sure you’ve learned that oftentimes, these words mean absolutely nothing. It’s imperative to look at the ingredient list to see if something is actually clean or not.
3. Plan ahead.
It can be pretty difficult at times to stick to clean eating, especially when in a time crunch. Whether it’s writing a grocery list ahead of time or researching restaurants before you travel somewhere, make sure you’re taking the necessary steps to eat clean ahead of time.
4. Ease into it.
Changing the way you eat entirely can be a difficult process. We get it. There’s nothing wrong with starting it little by little. If you slip up here and there, there are no consequences: this isn’t Whole30. Just make sure you’re doing what’s best for you and your body.
5. Find a community.
Whether it’s online or in-person, taking on this new lifestyle is easier with a friend. If you can’t convince anyone you know to eat clean with you, don’t let it deter you.
There are over 46 million posts under the clean eating hashtag on Instagram. You’re bound to find someone that motivates you to continue. And if you find any tips or discover any recipes, as always, tag us on Instagram.