Keeping it Clean: Food 101

54 Comments
posted on July 30, 2013 by  |  posted under Appetizers, Breakfast, Main Dishes, Recipes, Salads

 I am so thrilled to be welcoming a fabulous guest today who will be sharing something that *I* have really needed to learn more about – clean eating! I am a junk food junkie and I feel awful more days than not. Reading these tips have me motivated to change my diet and to start looking and feeling better in no time! Take it away, Jen!

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I remember looking through health and lifestyle magazines in years past and coming across samples of healthy daily diets and thinking to myself, “These people must be starving themselves with this food.” I thought that eating eggs with vegetables for breakfast and chicken on a veggie-loaded salad for lunch and salmon with greens and oranges on the side for dinner and even almonds as a snack equated to total body deprivation. I was convinced that no one on this Earth really ate this way in his or her everyday lives and he or she certainly wasn’t staying full from it.

I was completely wrong.

Let me back up and say that I’ve always loved healthy food. I’ve considered myself a decent eater for most of my life (well, you know, except for those lovely college days). I can’t even say that I’ve had major issues with my weight, other than gaining 30-something pounds with each of my 3 pregnancies (and, well, you know, in maybe some of those lovely college days). But before the start of this year, my knowledge about what food can do for your body, nutritionally, was far more limited than what I thought I knew. My thoughts about what I put into my body weren’t fine-tuned. I looked at food like a means to survival and just ate what tasted best, regardless of what it did to me or of how it made me feel. It wasn’t that I considered myself unhealthy during this time, but I ate to eat.

Now, I eat to fuel.

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In January of this year, I decided to clean up my and my family’s diet. I was tired of feeling sluggish every day… feeling cranky, moody and puffy all the time (even if I didn’t outwardly look it). I have three young daughters to keep up with and trying not to fall asleep at 2:00 in the afternoon was becoming a struggle. (If any of you have a middle child, you’ll understand why napping is not an option.) I knew I needed to get my act together and get back to that active, healthy person I was before I began having children. I’ve fanatically exercised my entire life (minus the 5 year hiatus while having my girls), but this year is the first time I’ve thought about exercise and food collaboratively. And how, together, they can transform your life.

Everyone’s idea of clean eating is different. The general idea of eating whole, real food is the same, but details vary from person to person. My idea of clean eating is asking myself if the food I’m about to eat is going to do anything for me nutritionally. If the answer is no, I don’t eat it. For our family, it means that we eat lean meats, chicken, fish, nitrate-free pork, tons of veggies, nuts and seeds, good fats, complex carbs, some fruit, beans, some dairy, and only use olive, avocado or coconut oils. We also try to stay away from refined sugars, processed food, fake sugar substitutes, “low-cal” or “low-fat” and anything that’s been genetically modified. We choose to buy organic as much as possible and we buy grass-fed when we can. I read labels closely and buy items whose ingredients I can pronounce.

With that being said, I take my coffee with cream and sugar. I make popcorn once a week in coconut oil (get yummy coconut popcorn recipe, here). I eat pizza at a summer cookout on the weekends and eat a small bit of dark chocolate almost every day. I hate to use the word “cheat,” because I don’t feel like you’re cheating if 90% of your diet is clean. I feel like you’re just “living.” In all the other “non-cheating” moments of my life, I make choices. It’s those choices that dictate if I’m going to feel like a million bucks or like a rusty penny tossed down a sewer. I now enjoy going to a restaurant and ordering a delicious piece of salmon instead of a gigantic pasta dish that will leave me looking for my bed. I enjoy skipping the bread on the table and opting for a great fish taco meal instead. I am completely OK with never drinking soda again, but I would never be OK with never having an espresso martini again. It comes down to choices.

I know people say it’s about balance, which is true, BUT, that balance needs to be weighted heavier in the direction of the good, healthy stuff. Much like the rest of life, if you’re evening out the scales, you’re only ever doing something halfway.

Push it all the way. I promise you won’t regret it.

Eating clean can be easy. You don’t need to gather exotic antioxidant-filled wild currants from eastern South America to put in your salad. You can maintain a healthy lifestyle with common ingredients! Our weekly shopping list is mostly always the same, with some small adjustments each trip. We shop primarily in the outer perimeter of the markets, where the most nutritious food is shelved.

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A sample shopping list goes something like this:

Proteins: Chicken Breast (or an entire chicken roaster), grass-fed ground beef or turkey, nitrate-free bacon, fresh fish at the seafood counter—usually salmon or cod, “clean” sausage (like Applegate brand), eggs, almonds, almond butter, natural peanut butter, coconut (anything, as long as it’s not processed), almond milk.

Veggies: Asparagus, carrots, sweet potatoes, fresh broccoli, brussel sprouts, zuchinni and summer squash, green beans, mushrooms, red and green peppers, onion, garlic, kale, broccoli slaw, mixed salad greens, olives, scallions.

Fruits: Bananas, berries, apples, peaches, pineapple, avocado.

Nuts/Seeds: Almonds (usually Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods brands). Gerb’s Superseed mix.

Herbs & Spices: Cilantro. And more cilantro. And maybe some cilantro. (Dill, basil or thyme are great to add to almost everything, too.) Cinnamon.

Dairy: Greek yogurt (we use Chobani or FAGE), full-fat cottage cheese, sometimes shredded cheese.

Other Carbs (aside from what’s in already-mentioned foods): Quinoa or brown rice, steel oats, black and garbanzo beans, good granola, local honey.

From this list, I can make endless meals for the week. I always take some time on Sunday or Monday to prep for the week.

Sunday Prep:

  1. Hard boil a dozen eggs.
  2. Cut up peppers and onions into strips, carrots into “fries,” broccoli into florets, sweet potatoes into peeled disks.
  3. Grill two to three packages of chicken breast. (Or roast an entire chicken.)
  4. Make a batch of cilantro or basil pesto, to throw over lunch salads. (recipe below)

We are pretty straightforward when it comes to recipes. Being a work-at-home mom of three, I need my version of healthy to be easy. Here’s a sample from each meal of the day.

Breakfast- Cinnamon Cottage Cheese
1 cup full-fat cottage cheese (which I believe is 4% milkfat)
1 banana, sliced
2 tbsp. natural peanut butter or almond butter (unsalted & unsweetened)
2 tbsp. local honey
1 tbsp cinnamon (adust to your taste level. I LOVE cinnamon so I tend to add a little more).

Lunch- Broccoli Slaw with Chicken and Pesto
1 ½ cups of broccoli slaw (bought pre-cut)
5 oz  (about a palm’s worth) of grilled chicken (that I made on Sunday)
1 avocado, diced
A handful of superseed mix (it’s a mix of chia, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp and flax)
1 scallion, diced
Cilantro pesto

Cilantro Pesto: A large bunch of cilantro, juice of one lime, 1-2 cloves of garlic, a dash of red wine vinegar, sea salt, cracked pepper, olive oil. Place all ingredients into the blender, except for the oil, and as the mixture is pureeing, slowly add the oil from the top until the pesto is the consistency you prefer.

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Dinner- Steak Stir Fry
1 Flank steak, or any kind of grilling steak
1 bunch of asparagus
1 onion
4 red peppers
1 each zucchini and yellow squash
2 scallions

Marinate steak a few hours before grilling (my marinade is usually some olive oil, crushed garlic, a little bit of worcestershire sauce, a dash of montreal steak seasoning—or you can google clean marinades and find some great ones). Grill steaks and set aside for slicing. In a large pan, sauté onion, asparagus, peppers, zucchini and squash in some olive oil (or coconut oil). Once the veggies have cooked down to your liking, throw in the sliced grilled steak and scallions. Saute until it’s all warmed through and serve.

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Eating clean is not about starving yourself. Or getting rid of any food that will ever taste good again. Or worrying about counting calories or points or tracking every single piece of food you eat. If you adapt it as your lifestyle, your body and mind will respond kindly. I can say that since we started becoming more conscious about the way we eat, I absolutely feel my best. The food I take in dictates my performance everywhere else in my life—in the gym, as a mom, as a wife. The more aware we are of the food we eat, the more in tune we become with our bodies, mental health and well being.

I don’t think those magazines are so crazy anymore.

Jen Senecal is a mom of three girls, blogger, writer and graphic designer. She is the co-founder of fitness blog The F Word, which will launch this week. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @JenSenecal.

54 Comments
COMMENTS
  1. July 30th, 2013 at 3:50 pm
    Desi says:
    Love this. I am wanting to start adding whole foods to our famlies foods. Right now it's too much processed foods and I don't like it. Thanks for the info and can't wait to read your blog.
    • August 3rd, 2013 at 8:32 am
      Jen S. says:
      Thank you so much for the kid comments!!!
  2. July 30th, 2013 at 6:58 pm
    Caley says:
    LOVED this post! Thank you so much for your tips, tricks, genius ideas, recipes, and encouraging words! I am re-motivated to start making better, nutritious choices for me and my family!
    • August 3rd, 2013 at 8:32 am
      Jen S. says:
      Thank you for reading!! I appreciate it!
  3. July 31st, 2013 at 10:07 pm
    Nicole says:
    I really enjoyed this post and will definitely check out your fitness website! I especially appreciated the simple recipe ideas and how you outlined your food shopping list and the prep you do at the beginning of the week. I am also trying to do more "clean" foods but don't want to spend a ton of time or money doing it! Thanks!
    • August 3rd, 2013 at 8:33 am
      Jen S. says:
      You're welcome! And thank you for your kind words! :)
  4. August 2nd, 2013 at 3:20 pm
    Stephanie Mullani says:
    Thanks for sharing your food shopping list! I love to know what kinds of things healthy people stock their pantries and refrigerators with. The statement about feeling like a million bucks or a rusty penny is right on target - amazing how food choices either give us energy, or drain it completely.
    • August 3rd, 2013 at 8:33 am
      Jen S. says:
      Thanks a million!!!! :)
  5. August 4th, 2013 at 8:42 pm
    Nicolette says:
    Those meals look relish! Thanks for the recipes. I wish I wasn't such a sweet tooth, but I do try to balance it out with healthy options. Do you have some favorite kid-friendly snacks that aren't processed?
  6. August 5th, 2013 at 11:56 am
    Angie says:
    When does the blog The F word go live? I cant wait to read it and follow :)
  7. August 6th, 2013 at 1:08 pm
    Morgan {Style Oyster & The Gym Bunny} says:
    I have a fitness blog called The Gym Bunny and I recently got more into eating clean and using food as fuel, not reward or entertainment. I love this article and thank you for some great new recipes to add into my mix!
  8. August 6th, 2013 at 9:12 pm
    Linda says:
    When will your new fitness blog be up and running? Can not wait to read and learn from it. . I am over 60 yrs. and I try to be careful, . Eating out or family get together can be a killer. I never had an issue with weight but I find now, if I am not careful the pounds come on fast and hard to get off. I have health issues so walking is the only form of exercise I can do. And it is short walks or I will go to the store and shop and use that time to do my extra walking. Never buy more , just enjoy getting the walking in. Thanks for the recipes. I will try the cottage cheese breakfast. Do you put the cottage cheese on a plate, sliced banana , almond butter, cinnamon and nuts on top? Sounds like a sundae without the ice cream, whip cream, and chocolate !
  9. August 7th, 2013 at 1:37 am
    Hailee says:
    LOVE it!!! Just this week I said enough is enough, I got rid of our processed foods! Have to admit a little frustrating when I thought feeding my family low fat and fat free foods I was doing them a favor...only to find out what is actually in them is horrible for us. With that said shopping yesterday (for REAL food) was tough...so thank you for your advice today! I especially love your sample list and can't wait to see your new blog : )
  10. August 7th, 2013 at 3:17 pm
    Kate says:
    This article made me feel inspired, powerful and motivated! I don't yet have children, but I know if Ia busy mom of three can do it I have absolutely NO excuse not to! Super excited to hit up the grocery store after work.
  11. August 13th, 2013 at 3:25 pm
    Katie says:
    Is your blog up yet- not getting anywhere on Google and I love the info in your post...need more :)
  12. August 20th, 2013 at 12:46 pm
    Kim says:
    Thank you for all the excellent information! I've been overwhelmed trying to clean up my diet and you simplified it for me! So happy to have discovered your site!!!
  13. September 11th, 2013 at 1:35 pm
    Anne says:
    Great article. Thanks for the write up, very informative and the shopping list really helped clear up a lot of the grey areas on this topic. My only question is... what about bread? Do you eat any kind of bread? It is really the only wheat product that we still consume and my family would have a hard time kicking that. Looking forward to reading your blog!
  14. September 13th, 2013 at 10:07 pm
    Kylie says:
    Does anyone have a link to her blog? I'd really like to read more.
    • September 29th, 2013 at 11:47 am
      Becky says:
      Her blog is thefwordblog.com
  15. September 17th, 2013 at 9:08 pm
    Dana G says:
    Great ideas! I like to add some macadamia nuts to my cilantro pesto. Adds a nutty flavor and replaces some of the olive oil with its own oils. Yum yum!
  16. September 20th, 2013 at 7:21 pm
    Vickie Vanderbrook says:
    Your food looks good...and it is healthy, too. I look forward to seeing more...

    Thanks,

    Vickie
  17. September 22nd, 2013 at 4:56 pm
    Maureen says:
    I stumbled on this blog after googling "eating clean'". To be honest I don't know if I consider this to be eating clean because it seems your family consumes a lot of meat and dairy? I think people have different ideas of what 'eating clean' means. I have vegan friends who load up on wheat and think of meat/dairy as poison. Whereas you seem to be a low-carb person. Very interesting to see how people eat differently.
    • December 11th, 2013 at 5:42 am
      jen senecal says:
      Hi Maureen- I know... that's what I mean when I say everyone's idea of clean eating is different. In fact, I hardly even call it "clean eating" anymore. I just refer to it as my idea of a healthy lifestyle. For me, I can't function without meat. I eat very little dairy-- only cottage cheese in the morning and a couple tbsps of cream in my coffee. Sometimes, I'll have goat cheese in my salads, but aside from that, these are the only dairy elements in my diet. I do eat a lot of meat, though. I wouldn't be able to fill up on my protein the way I do, otherwise. (And my workouts lend to needing a lot of protein.) Plus, I just like it. :) But, I'm heavy on veggies, too. And I will never say no to an iced mocha from Starbucks! LOL. :)
  18. October 1st, 2013 at 7:04 pm
    Tommy says:
    Hey, my fiance sent me this article to read because she and I want to eat healthy when we are married. I am a medical student right now and have been learning a great deal about nutrition from numerous PhDs in the field and I just wanted to say that coconut oil is one of the worst oils out there! It is extremely high in saturated fat, which is linked to high cholesterol (raises LDL) and heart disease. Just wanted to let all of you know that canola (rapeseed) oil and safflower oil are the best to use because they are lowest in saturated fats. Despite them being "natural", tropical oils like coconut and palm are dangerous simply because of the detrimental effects of saturated fat!
    • December 11th, 2013 at 5:38 am
      jen senecal says:
      Hi Tommy- Actually, that isn't true that coconut oil is one of the worst oils for you. It contains the saturated fat called lauric acid, which actually increases the HDL levels in your body (good cholesterol, not bad cholesterol). Coconut oil lowers cholesterol by promoting its conversion to pregnenolone, a molecule that is a precursor to many of the hormones our bodies need. Coconut can help restore normal thyroid function. When the thyroid does not function optimally, it can contribute to higher levels of bad cholesterol. Coconut oil also mounts the body with resistance to viruses. It can also positively effect hormones and blood-sugar levels. It contains medium=chained triglycerides (MCTs), which are healthy fats that can be processed by the liver to give great energy to burn. Studies have even shown that people who consume 2 tbsps a day have lost more abdominal fat (the hardest fat to lose) than someone who didn't consume it. There are different types of saturated fats, and coconut oil contains ones that are beneficial for your body. Saturated fat won't make you fat or give you bad cholesterol. That's a very old mindset and has been proven to be untrue and just the opposite for this type of saturated fat. Canola oil is one of the most processed oils there is, so it's an oil I completely stay away from. (GOod luck with medical school! I was pre-med also back in school, and I'm not going for a nutritional certification. :)) Thanks!
  19. October 4th, 2013 at 11:51 am
    lori says:
    I love her outlook on clean eating! I totally agree with it. Thanks for the post! I needed to re think my eating again.
  20. October 6th, 2013 at 5:47 pm
    Whitney says:
    Jen can you give us your workout secrets too? Like how often and what all you do?? Thanks!!
  21. October 17th, 2013 at 10:27 am
    Jen Black says:
    This menu looks pretty simple and includes everything already like, so it doesn't seem like I would have to try and force myself to like something. For the breakfast, do you just mix all those ingredients together? And are the hard boiled eggs just snacks for in between meals???
  22. October 28th, 2013 at 8:08 am
    Leona says:
    This was so inspiring! I have been wanting to get serious about my and my families eating habits and it's hard and scary at first! I love food! So, like you, I've had this mentality that when you eat clean- you're deprived of full flavored food and you're starving! And you've helped my to see it a totally different way! I've not got 1 kid, so if you can do it with 3- I can definitely do it! I'm so stoked I came across your blog! Yay! Thank you!
  23. November 3rd, 2013 at 5:15 pm
    Pennie says:
    Your blog is inspiring.
  24. November 17th, 2013 at 8:33 pm
    NLenore says:
    I was wondering why you buy the 4% cottage cheese. I buy the 2% because it's less fat. Is the 2% processed badly? Thanks for the article.
    • December 11th, 2013 at 5:44 am
      jen senecal says:
      I'm still looking into the whole dairy fat percentage thing, but my general mindset is to buy fullest fat of any food item, bc usually, if they reduce fat, they've added something unfavorable else instead. But i haven't fully looked into dairy with this. i just stick to my general food fat rule with it. plus, i think it tastes better! :)
  25. November 25th, 2013 at 10:34 am
    Denise says:
    I would not eat any kind of almonds. Google in "almonds and fuel".
  26. November 25th, 2013 at 7:26 pm
    Lana says:
    Really appreciated the time you took to share your regimen. Inspired by the pics as I'm very visual. Planning a great Thanksgiving and looking forward to starting your routine as our own. Will keep you posted!!
  27. December 23rd, 2013 at 3:44 pm
    ashley says:
    As a full time college student and full time state employee, I found this post to absolutely amazing! With very little time left in my days, I find myself eating junk foods because they are eas. But they counteract my dedication in the gym. I love the simplicity of Jen's meal planning and plan to look further into her blog!
  28. January 1st, 2014 at 10:12 am
    Dana says:
    This is awesome! I have to change my diet due to a health issue and have been wracking my brain trying to come up with ideas so that I don't get stuck in a rut and start making bad choices out of frustration. This gives me a lot of ideas for delicious meals that I won't get bored with quickly. Thank you!
  29. January 1st, 2014 at 1:55 pm
    Brooke @ BrilliantByBrooke says:
    Hi Bobbi! I just absolutely have to say - this post is SO fantastic and SUCH a balanced, actionable, easy-to-understand guide. I am a Nutrition Coach and Personal Trainer and will be sharing this post with my followings/followers.

    GREAT job on this Article, You rock woman!!

    THANK YOU <3
  30. January 1st, 2014 at 1:58 pm
    Brooke @ BrilliantByBrooke says:
    Sorry - I mean Jen! Not Bobbi. Confused about author :)
  31. January 5th, 2014 at 3:58 pm
    lindsey says:
    love this post! Really enjoy the recipes that you put up with the clean eating grocery list. Was wondering if there were meal ideas for the rest of that grocery list? or if there are any links of meals made with the ingredients from that list. I definitely took note and cant wait to make it to the store tomorrow :)
  32. January 16th, 2014 at 10:23 am
    Kate says:
    I wouldn't call that geek yogurt 'clean eating' since it contains GMOs. Make sure to find a USDA Organic yogurt, and even then check the ingredients because USDA organic still allows up to 5% of ingredients to be non-organic. (Same goes with any cheese or processed food).
  33. January 19th, 2014 at 9:03 am
    Bridgette says:
    I am in those "lovely" college days and have found myself 30lbs heavier. I love how motivational and directional this article is! This makes cooking sound easy and grocery shopping even less complicated. This is just the "how-to" blog I have been looking for. Thank you! :)
  34. January 28th, 2014 at 7:26 am
    liz says:
    I love this entry. I've been looking for something easy that includes foods I can eat. I was wondering if you had any advise on what to make if your allergic to dairy and red meat?
    Thanks
  35. April 9th, 2014 at 11:02 pm
    lynnae says:
    I can't thank you enough for this post. I've been looking into different ways of eating healthier, and this is just simple good for you eating, especially for kids/families. I look forward to following your posts!
  36. April 13th, 2014 at 6:18 pm
    Sheika says:
    This is awesome, I am now being more health minded where it concerns eating. I was on track eating clean once and didn't notice any changes so I thought, I felt so great that I forgot what feeling bad felt like lol However, as soon as I started my old habits in the least bit boy did the memories of how bad I felt flood in. Now I remember how good I felt really well and I'm working to get back to that place again!
  37. April 30th, 2014 at 12:55 am
    Shawna says:
    So frustrating to me. I don't like many of the foods she has listed and I can't imagine living a life of salads and more salads. Lettuce alone makes me gag and don't even get me started on cottage cheese ack! Haha
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  39. August 26th, 2014 at 7:43 pm
    Cheryl Gregory says:
    You may want to also look into the wildtree products which are organic and so much better than ones that you buy in the grocery stores
  40. August 27th, 2014 at 6:41 pm
    Cynthia says:
    This is one of the best and most well compiled lists I've seen for healthy/clean eating....I'm both an NP and wellness coach and I'm impressed :)))
  41. October 3rd, 2014 at 3:45 pm
    Molly says:
    I'm trying to switch towards cleaner eating, and I have noticed that I feel better already, and really don't feel hungry very often. But I'm confused about some foods that don't seem to appear on anyone's clean eating lists. I would assume basically any fruits and vegetables would be good, but I've noticed a lot of lists don't include grapes, mushrooms, oranges, etc. Is there some reason those are supposed to be bad for you?
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