The holidays are over and it’s time to buckle down on your diet and get back into the gym. Getting out to the gym presents its own challenges, but getting your diet right is often just a matter of preparation and perseverance.
A Clean Diet Starts in the Kitchen
This is the place where all of your meals and snacks will be prepared and stored until you’re ready to consume them. That being said, cleaning up your kitchen and getting it ready for your new lifestyle is a perfect place to start. Mentally, this process will help you accept change and get you ready for a transformation. Physically, having a well prepped kitchen will allow you to enjoy your food preparation more and make it a breeze to whip up clean and healthy meals. Below are a few tips to help you get your kitchen into healthy shape!
Remove Temptation & Purge Old Food
Out with the old and in with the new! The best way to kick start your clean eating habit is to get rid of any and all food that doesn’t fit into your new diet. This includes cleaning out your fridge, pantry and freezer of things like cookies, crackers, sauces, jams and syrups, ice cream, sugary cereals, flavored yogurt, sodas (regular and diet) and fruit juices (frozen or otherwise). When you want to cheat, go out and make that single purchase and cheat, but don’t leave temptation hanging around the house, it makes it too easy (especially at the beginning) to indulge.
Replenish Your Stock & Keep Backups
Start by doing a grocery shop for the week. Plan out what your meals will be and buy in bulk to make at least 2 – 3 days of meals all at one time. If you can do 5 days at once, so much the better.
Buy some frozen foods, or buy fresh and then freeze, for those desperate moments when you were unable to prep or shop ahead of time.
Freezing things like ground turkey, chicken and fish is a good start, and they last for quite a while if packaged correctly and can be thawed relatively quickly (especially fish). Along the same line it’s wise to stock some quick snack foods and meal replacements like protein bars, beef jerkey and protein shakes.
Set a Prep Day & Cook in Bulk
A common complaint for people who fall off the clean eating train is that they don’t have time to prepare the meals. This is just laziness, plain and simple. It takes less than 2 hours to prep 5 days worth of meals if you do it properly. Set the time aside, figure out what you’re going to eat, buy all the materials and get it done. You can bake multiple things at the same time while simultaneously boiling or frying on the stove top. Here’s a sample of a weekly prep that I perform on Sunday afternoon while watching football:
- Bake 6 chicken breasts (Prep 2 minutes, Cook 30 minutes)
- Bake 12 pieces of Tilapia (Prep 2 minutes, Cook 12 minutes)
- Fry 1.5 pounds of Ground Turkey + 1 can Black Beans (Prep 1 minute, Cook 20 minutes)
- Fry 1lb Flank Steak (4 x 4oz steaks) (Prep 2 minutes, Cook 12 minutes)
- Boil 6 eggs (Prep 0 minutes, Cook 10 minutes, rest 17 minutes)
- Boil 3 sweet potatoes, 1 regular potato, 4 cloves garlic, 1/2 small onion (Prep 10 minutes, Cook & Mash 25 minutes)
- Cook 2 cups (uncooked) brown rice (Prep 1 minute, Cook 45 – 50 minutes)
- Steam 2 heads of broccoli (Prep 5 minutes, Cook 10 min x 2 = 20 min)
As can be seen here, prep is minimal with much of the cooking is done simultaneously, and the yield is enough to feed someone 3 meals a day for 5 days. Breakfast is a separate daily prep for me and I generally get in one protein shake per day as a meal replacement.
Ensure Adequate Storage Units
So you’ve done all of this cooking, now what do you do with everything? Be sure you’ve stocked up on meal sized storage containers – glass for reheating is preferable, plastic/tupperware is good for bulk storage – so you can package and transport individual meals with ease.
Stock Up on Spices and Hot Sauce
Just because you’re eating clean doesn’t mean your food shouldn’t taste good! There are a plethora of spice blends out there that making eating any dish a pleasure. Check out the full line of Mrs. Dash spices, and my personal favorite, Montreal Steak Spice from Club House. In the same manner, many hot sauces are primarily vinegar based, and have no sugar in them, so they are ideal candidates for adding a little zip to meals. Prime examples are Tabasco, Grace Hot Pepper Sauce and our personal favorite, Huy Fong Sriracha.
Bacteria can be everywhere in your kitchen, but it doesn’t have to be in your food. Keep your kitchen safe from contamination by:
- Washing your vegetables and fruits before you eat them.
- Constantly washing your hands between handling food.
- Replacing sponges frequently.
- Using different cutting boards for different foods – plastic and glass are great for poultry.
- Thawing raw food in the fridge overnight and not on the counter.
Cooling Your Food
This is one of the biggest areas where people get confused and end up hurting themselves or someone else. After something comes out of the oven/stovetop let it sit on the counter to cool for 5 – 10 minutes. Then, continue cooling in the fridge, UNCOVERED, until it has completely cooled down. It is often helpful to stir the item from time to time to cool the unexposed area for something like soup, mashed potatoes or rice. Also, try and keep all of the cooling items on the top rack of your fridge and move already cooked or cooled items lower down for the time being, and don’t ever stack hot directly on top of cold stuff. Once it is completely cooled pop a lid on it and you’re good to go.