How to Eat Clean and Actually Enjoy It

Thankfully, nutrition is gradually becoming a well-developed popular topic surrounded by mature arguments and a plethora of valid choices. Instead of blindly following hyped diet plans and anathematizing the latest nutrient that has made it to the “blacklist“ (we’re looking at you, carbs), people are getting more and more encouraged to adjust scientific findings and expert recommendations to their own personal lifestyles and needs.

It seems like we’ve finally discovered the simple truth that lies behind it all: listen to your own body and eat high quality food. Still, there are many ways to do that, and one of them is by following the rules of the Eat-Clean Diet. You must have heard about it somewhere already, but we assume you’re a bit confused, like many others.

Eating clean is a great way to incorporate more healthy choices into your eating habits without having to cut off any crucial nutrients. Read this article for a more detailed view and treat yourself and your family with some of our favorite dinner recipes.

So, why should you be “eating clean“?

Weight loss is pretty easy compared to the struggle of making that loss sustainable. As we’ve all learned on the harder way, that’s where the real challenge lies – maintaining your weight loss requires some permanent dietary changes that will be both healthy and satisfying.
Eating clean encourages a lifestyle defined by exercising at least three times a week and consuming as many unprocessed, natural and home-prepared whole foods as possible.

These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and non-fat diary. On the other hand, it advocates the exclusion of highly-processed foods containing artificial ingredients, preservatives, added sugars and trans fats. That sounds rather simple and reasonable, right?

Yet, many people experience certain difficulties when challenged to cut back on white flour, sugary drinks, salty snacks, fried foods and alcohol – with the typical modern eating pattern we all share, this diet plan sure requires a decent amount of self-discipline. Eating healthy 100% of the time isn’t quite easy when you’re constantly being tempted by junk food, but you can make a good start by significantly limiting your unhealthy choices. And clean eating is by no means a starvation technique – you actually get to eat a lot of great food!

These are the basic principles of clean eating:

– Start by preparing your traditional three meals, then cut them in half and try to eat a portion every three hours.
– Each meal should consist of minimally processed ingredients.
– Each meal should count between 200-400 calories.
– Each meal should include complex carbs and proteins.
– Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily.
– Consume an adequate amount of healthy fats every day.

Regardless of your cooking skills, switching to a healthier lifestyle requires you to prepare most of your meals. That way you’ll know exactly what’s in your meal and you’ll enjoy it more!

Don’t worry, there are a lot of light-cooking 30-minute meal recipes that are absolutely delightful and can help you get started. Here we have a list of our four favorite and easy-to-prepare clean meals that include wholesome ingredients and count less that 400 calories per serving.

 

1. Spinach Salad with Shrimps

Ingredients:

3 slices center-cut bacon
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups thinly sliced fennel bulb
2 cup grape tomatoes
1 package fresh baby spinach
2 tablespoons chopped shallots
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:

First, cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from the pan, add the shrimps in and cook for two minutes. Put the bacon, shrimps and all other ingredients in a bowl, stirr well and serve.

Servings: 4

Nutritive value: Calories: 274; Total fat: 13.5 grams; Saturated fat: 2.2 grams; Monosaturated fat: 7.7 grams; Polysaturated fat: 1.9 grams; Protein: 27.5 grams; Carbohydrate: 11.2 grams; Fiber: 3.5 grams; Cholesterol: 176 milligrams; Iron: 5 milligrams; Sodium: 487 milligrams; Calcium: 156 milligrams.

2. Chicken & Roasted Broccoli

Ingredients:

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, 6 ounces each
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, chopped (680 grams)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, sliced (90 grams)
2 sprigs basil, thinly chopped
4 slices fresh mozzarella (28 grams per slice)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C). Slice the chicken breasts in half and season them with salt and pepper. Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, mustard and olive oil, toss in the broccoli and spread everything out onto a sheet pan. Sprinkle some salt and roast it for 25 minutes.

Grill the chicken on both sides for about 2 minutes in a grill pan over medium-high heat, then transfer it to the oven and cook for another ten minutes,adding the mozzarella in the last two minutes of cooking. Top the chicken and broccoli with basil and tomato slices.

Servings: 4

Nutritive value (per serving): Calories: 341; Total fat: 20 grams; Saturated fat: 6 grams; Monosaturated fat: 8 grams; Cholesterol: 60 milligrams; Carbohydrate: 18 grams; Fiber: 6 grams; Protein: 26 grams; Sodium: 502 milligrams.

 

3. Chicken & Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/8 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly black pepper
1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450°F. Heat a large skillet over high heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the pan. Cook it for 3 minutes, then turn it over and place the pan in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, and remove it from the pan. Heat the pan over medium-high heat, then add 1/2 cup broth and cider and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, simmer for 4 minutes. Whisk in the mustard, 1 tablespoon butter and the parsley.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and sauté for 2 minutes, then add the remaining salt and broth to pan – cover and cook for 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Serve sprouts with chicken and sauce.

Servings: 4

Nutritive value (per serving): Calories: 350; Total fat: 15g; Saturated fat: 5g; Monounsaturated fat: 7g; Cholesterol: 114mg; Carbohydrate: 11g; Fiber: 3g; Protein: 42g; Sodium: 604mg.

4. Beef with Pomegranate Sauce

Ingredients:

4 (4-ounce) beef tenderloin steaks, trimmed
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1/3 cup pinot noir or burgundy wine
1/3 cup pomegranate juice
1/3 cup fat-free, lower-sodium beef broth
1 thyme sprig
1 1/2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cooking spray

Instructions:

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Coat the pan with cooking spray and add the steaks – cook for 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove steaks from pan, add the shallots and sauté 30 seconds. Add pepper, wine, juice, broth, and thyme sprig, bring to a boil and cook for 7 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and discard the thyme sprig. Add butter to the sauce, stirring it well until it melts. Serve the steaks with the sauce.

Servings: 4

Nutritive value (per serving): Calories: 236; Total fat: 11g; Saturated fat: 5g; Monounsaturated fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 84mg;  Carbohydrate: 4g; Fiber: 0g; Protein: 25g; Sodium: 333mg.

 

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5. Asparagus & Pea Pasta

Ingredients:

2 cups uncooked bow tie pasta (210 grams)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups  fresh asparagus pieces (270 grams, with ends chopped and discarded)
1 cup frozen green peas (145 grams)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (40 grams)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large pan over medium heat. Add butter, onion and garlic, and cook until onions are soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add the asparagus to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes. Add peas to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes. Set aside. Drain the cooked pasta and add to the pan with vegetable mixture. Add feta, dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the pan. Toss until well combined.

Servings: 4

Nutritive value (per serving): Calories: 359; Total fat: 9g; Saturated fat: 5g; Monounsaturated fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 22mg; Carbohydrate: 59g; Fiber: 6g; Protein: 13g; Sodium: 251mg; Potassium: 195mg.

6. Portobello & Basil Pizza

Ingredients:

For the basil pesto
2 tablespoons of pine nuts (substitute with walnuts if you’re on a budget)
2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 small avocado
3 tablespoons olive oil

For the portobello pesto pizza
4 portobello mushrooms
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces grated mozzarella (Or use sliced sandwich cheese – mozzarella, fontina, Swiss; 1 slice is approx. 1 ounce)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Make the basil pesto by combining pine nuts, basil, garlic and avocado in a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are broken up. Drizzle in olive oil, while keeping the food processor on, until you get a sauce-like consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

For the pizza, remove stems from portobello mushrooms and use a spoon to scrape out the inside gills, the brush the mushrooms with olive oil on both sides. Place mushrooms cap side down on a sheet pan. Spoon approximately 1/3 cup of basil pesto onto the mushroom. Top with sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with cheese. Bake in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes.

Servings: 4

Nutritive value (per serving): Calories: 303; Total Fat: 29g; Saturated fat: 6g; Monounsaturated fat: 17g; Cholesterol: 18mg; Carbohydrate: 10g; Fiber: 4g; Sugar: 1g; Protein 13g; Sodium: 190mg; Potassium: 228mg.

 

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