Eating clean is not terribly difficult, but you may have noticed that a healthy diet may also be more costly compared to all the pre-packaged frozen food we are taught to ignore when trying to get healthier and more fit.
In this article I will try to show you what you can do and what you can purchase to eat healthy, yet avoid emptying your wallet. Most of these items can be found in any grocery store and also in generic brands. Don't be picky! I shop often at Wal-Mart myself.
First and foremost, we are trying to cut out the processed foods (pre-packaged and frozen), the excessive fats and the high carbohydrate foods. The following items listed will be some of your main staples to add to your shopping cart:
- Oatmeal (quick oats unflavored)
- Frozen chicken breast in a bag (you can buy these in bulk)
- Almonds (plain, unsalted)
- Eggs to boil (purchase several dozen at a time)
- Ground turkey (cheaper in bulk as well)
- Cottage cheese (or yogurt, low fat of course!)
- Frozen vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, green beans, etc.)
- Beef (if you can afford it)
- Brown rice
- Whole-wheat pasta
- Whole-grain breads (they do have protein bread now)
- Salad greens (lettuce, tomato, cucumber)
- Canned tuna (try to limit to 3 cans a week if possible)
- Fresh fruit that may be on sale
- Large serving of protein powder
- A food scale until you get used to "eyeballing" your portions
You now have the basics for "going lean" in your cart. I try to buy in bulk and will also buy some tilapia fish if I can get it cheap. I know you are now thinking, "what am I going to do with this stuff to save money?" Well, I cook for myself approximately 2 times per week.
I cook a large bag of chicken (boiled for me, may be oven baked if you prefer it that way) or a large container of ground turkey. I do cook it on the stove top, but it is so low in fats you have to keep stirring it so it does not stick.
I also cook a large pot of brown rice or whole-wheat pasta, and at the same time I boil about 12-18 eggs. Figuring how many meals you will need or how many you would like to freeze or keep in the fridge is also important.
Normally I have about 6 containers ready to fill. Taking the meat first, I layer in my food. On top of the 4-6 oz of meat I add approximately 1/2 cup of brown rice and top with a ladle full of vegetables. You can now freeze these or keep them in the fridge to have them available to take with you anywhere, such as work (hopefully most of you have microwaves available). You can mix and match any of the available meats, grains and vegetables to your liking.
If you do not have anything prepared to take with you another option is the tuna added to salad with a little bit of mayo to kill the dryness. You will be eating approximately 6 times a day, so be creative!
My Daily Menu
My daily menu looks something like this:
- 1/2 cup oatmeal
- 2 boiled eggs
- Protein shake
- Handful of almonds
- Pre-made meal
- Protein shake
- 2 boiled eggs/cottage cheese
- Pre-made meal
- Small salad
- Protein shake
- Cottage cheese/eggs
Fresh fruits and raw vegetables are allowed as snacks. Try to avoid the "sugary" fruits and stick to things like apples and cantaloupe. As I stated before, you can mix and match your meals, use seasoning, or exchange a pre-made meal for salad.
Look At The Ingredients
The important thing is to keep carbs relatively low and try not to have any after 6 pm if you can help it. You want to limit your carbs to earlier in the day where you know you will be using them for energy. Unused carbs sit in your system and will be stored as fats if not burned off.
I keep fats low but allow for a spoonful of peanut butter, salad dressing and 1/2 and 1/2 for my coffee. Also, many people seem to forget their intake of liquid calories. The soft drink calories add up as do some of the smoothies available at the local drive thru (adding yogurt does not make it healthy to eat!).
You have to look at your ingredients and just because it says low fat, doesn't mean it is not loaded with carbs and sugar instead. To cut craving for sweets you can have some green tea with a couple Splendas to get you past the craving period. I guarantee that after eating clean for awhile, your "old" foods will soon become mushy, salty and greasy to you.
We are not saints, so a cheat day is allowed. Cheating does not mean eating an entire cake or a 1/2 gallon of ice cream! Cheating means allowing a higher amount of carbs and fat than normal just to have a "treat" and get it out of your system for the following week. Many people cheat on Sundays, this allows us something to look forward to when the weekend comes.
The saving money also stems from the fact that you are not going out for lunch anymore; you are not wasting food as often and you are buying in bulk. I am a single parent with 3 children still living at home. They will eat the boiled eggs and you can always use your staples to make quick meals that they too can enjoy.
All you have to do for kids is add cheese to anything. I purchase shredded pre-packaged cheese to add flavor to my salads and eggs when I make omelets. This routine can be quite boring for the average individual. It takes dedication to stay on track, but your end goal is getting leaner and healthier and it will work if you stick with it.
We are also aiming to consume 1-1.5 grams of protein per lb of bodyweight to keep muscle as you burn fat. The ultimate goal is to get in good shape, not become a stick figure or waif from a fashion magazine.
As for supplementation, women need it as much as men. There are many fat burners on the market and this may get confusing. There is NO "Magic Pill"! You must use it to "supplement" eating and exercising.
Many popular brands such as Cytolean, Hydroxycut and Lipo 6 have been used with great results. Bodybuilding.com often offers many of these products on sale and they are very affordable. As for protein powders, I use Gaspari's Intrapro, but don't get discouraged if you cannot work it into your budget.
BodyFortress or Designer Whey at Wal-Mart or Target is very affordable and protein is important for attaining and maintaining lean body mass. You may be sacrificing taste when buying cheaper brands, but the need for protein is more important than getting the "best of the best".
I find the chocolate flavor to be the most pleasing out of all the protein powders. I also use creatine for muscle building, endurance and strength in my weight training.
Many people fear creatine when they hear it may cause water retention. It has never happened to me personally and I have gotten great gains using it. It is available in a mixture (like fruit punch) or plain form and can be added to almost anything and like the protein powder, is available almost everywhere.
This plan must also be used in combination with some sort of cardiovascular routine such as walking and weight training several times a week. Food alone is not going to transform you. Be smart, be sensible and when in doubt... don't eat it!
Eating clean has worked for me and it will work for you.