One of the biggest struggles people face when they convert to clean eating is not only making the driest food ever – yes, I’m looking at you people who insist on eating not only dry steamed broccoli, but the most cardboard-tasting chicken breast alive – but the portions are infinitely smaller. Some of us just took the “deck of cards” portion size a little too literally, and are now finishing our sparkling-clean meals while wondering, “why, on Earth, am I still hungry?”
You can never forget that food is, quite frankly, fuel. Food is how you power yourself throughout the day. And, though people like to tell you that a starving body will result in your body burning fat for fuel, you should realize that this is a miserable process — one that is not conducive to successful weight loss. You can starve if you want, but remember – your daily function outside of your vigorous activity will be sluggish, you won’t be able to think as clearly as you otherwise might, and your energy will be drained. It is truly a miserable way to go.
Seeing as how food is fuel, it’s important to build meals in a way that, so when you do get to sit down at the table, you will not only have a meal that you can safely enjoy, but it will be fulfilling and be able to sustain you for a while.
There are three things that you want to make sure your meal consists of: healthy fats, quality lean proteins, and healthy forms of carbs. Any meal that misses any one of these three components will not only be unfulfilling, but will potentially leave you unhappy.
A healthy fat can be anything from an olive oil to an avocado to the oils that come from some nuts and seeds — peanuts, cashews, almonds and even sesame seeds. Naturally-occurring fats, in small doses, pack a mean punch as far as energy is concerned, but they also add a texture quality to what you’re eating; they can add a nice creamy texture or be used to add a bit of a crisp. If you added coconut oil to a skillet of collard greens, with the right seasonings? That’s a win.
Healthy carbs are also an easy pick: now, we’re talking fruits, vegetables and (if your diet permits) whole grains. The interesting part about this section is that a healthy carb will be not only part-carb, but part-protein, as well. Whole grains are high in protein, making them not only inexpensive and nutritious, but filling. Good leafy greens will not only have a little bit of protein, but a good amount of fiber in them, as well… and we all know what good fiber does. It not only keeps you regular, but helps to regulate your blood sugar, as well. Fruits and veggies are your best sources of fiber, and a consistent diet of both will keep you hitting the potty every day. (And, yes, you want that.)
Quality, lean proteins are perhaps the trickiest of them all, because so many diets are defined by what kind of protein you exclude. As I mentioned before, whole grains count, but if you exclude gluten from your diet what are your other sources? Beans and legumes – black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, hoppin’ john, navy beans, lentils – are a viable source. But if you’re following the paleo diet, what do you do? Chicken, seafood, lean cuts of beef, and any other meat you might’ve imagined will count. But what if you’re abstaining from flesh? Tofu, tempeh, miso and the like are great options for the vegetarian and vegan, but what if you’re not eating soy?
Like many things, you have to figure out what works best for you. Whether it’s tofu or turkey burgers, make the choices that fit your lifestyle, your tastes, and your budget. And, if you’ve gone from a processed food lifestyle to clean eating only to experience hunger, chances are high that you could bump up your portion sizes a great deal, still experience progress with your weight loss, and not feel like you could inhale enough for a small country. Plan your plates to help sustain you until the next meal; breakfast should help you last until lunch time, lunch should help you last until dinner, and dinner should sustain you through into the morning, without you waking up feeling sluggish and tired. (I know, the common phrase is “breakfast like a king, dinner like a pauper,” but that’s not for the novice clean eater.)
Be adventurous. Embarking on a journey into clean eating is a challenge, but it should be an exciting one. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find what works best for you. As I always say, your body will thank you for it!
Erika Nicole Kendall is the writer behind the award winning blog, A Black Girl’s Guide to Weight Loss, where she blogs everything from fitness to food, weight loss to wellness, body image and more. A trainer certified in women’s fitness, fitness nutrition and weight loss coaching, she can be found taking over your Internet on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.