Rule # 1: Prepare Your Food 

Food preparation is one of the most important steps when it comes to sticking to clean eating. Having your food prepped and ready before it’s time to eat severely reduces the chance of you eating bad food. I know I am 100% more likely to revert to something cheap and quick for lunch, which is usually greasy drive-thru food if I don’t have anything prepped.

Some people prepare all their food for the whole week at once. Some prepare for half the week and then halfway through the week, prepare the food for the rest of the week. It’s all about your preference. I have my own system that works best for me. I like to prepare my lunches for the whole week on Sunday. That way I’m not tempted to splurge on fast food. I don’t pre-make my breakfasts and lunches, but I do plan them!

I chop up any fruits and vegetables I plan to use and store them for when I’m ready to cook. There is also pre-chopped produce in many grocery stores. I tend to get lazy and opt out of making vegetables if I have to chop them. I do all my shopping and cooking on Sunday so I know I have everything I need to be successful for the week. I know what I’m making for breakfast and dinner for each day of the week and that takes out any guessing games, uncertainty, or unplanned situations.

Rule # 2: Use a lot of Variety 

When I first started clean eating I made grilled chicken breast and broccoli for every lunch and dinner, every single day. By day three I couldn’t bear to eat one more piece of broccoli or chicken breast! That was all I had prepared so I went off track and ate terrible food. Variety in your food is the key to sticking to your diet.

The internet is home to millions of recipes to help you change up your meal plan. Google healthy recipes and make a list of the ones you want to try. Pinterest is another great place to find healthy recipes. Once you’ve found a few you want to try, compare them and see which ones have similar components. Food prep goes much smoother if you prep meals with similar ingredients. Find vegetables that roast at the same rate and put them all on the same cooking sheet to cook. Bake several chicken breasts at once to use for different chicken recipes.

Rule # 3: Allow Yourself Small Indulgences 

Never make yourself feel deprived! Feeling deprived can cause you to binge on junk food and derail all the progress you’ve made. It’s important to remember that clean eating is a lifestyle change. This doesn’t mean you can never have a candy bar again. If someone told me I could never eat ice cream again I’d probably eat a gallon just to spite them!

They key to indulging is to limit it. Instead of buying a carton of ice cream when you get a craving, go out for a cone. This way, you have the one serving and you’re done. Having an entire carton at home will lead to a much bigger serving or more frequent indulgence. Your diet should be about 80/20. 80% of the time you should be eating clean and nutritious food. The remaining 20% treat yo self! But be smart about it! One or two small treats a week will help keep you from flying off the clean eating rails.

Rule # 4: Use Portion Control

Learning how to properly portion your food is critical. Most dishes served in restaurants are 2-3 times the portion sizes they should be. Eating smaller portions throughout the day helps keep your metabolism working. Instead of 3 large meals a day, you should aim for 5 smaller meals. Properly portioning your food will keep you successful and keep you seeing results.

There are containers you can find in stores or online that help you learn the right portions for your food. The containers are color-coded according to the type of food you’re measuring. Generally, they’re labeled as proteins, vegetables, fruits, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. The containers will tell you how much of each container you should be eating a day according to your current weight, activity level and your goals.

Rule # 5: Don’t Wait until you’re Hungry

Food is a means of getting nutrition to your body. Often times, people trying to lose weight view food as the enemy. But that’s not the case. Food is your friend! If you’re pushing yourself to hunger between meals you’re doing it wrong. Not only does this practice mess up your metabolism, but it makes the chance of binging on bad food more likely. I can’t be the only one that gets angry and irrational when I’m hungry!

An efficient way to ward off the hunger beast is to spread your meals just a few hours apart. If you eat your planned and portioned meal before you get hungry you will be more likely to stay on track. Being hungry between meals leads most of us to snack. The office vending machine is the downfall of many well crafted diets. A well-planned eating schedule will keep this from happening. For emergencies, keep a small, healthy snack on you for times when you can’t get to a planned meal. Mixed nuts, granola, or grapes make a great snack to hold you over until the next meal.

So there you have it! These 5 rules are crucial to those who stick to clean eating. A lifestyle change is not an easy feat but these rules will help you to be successful. Your diet is pivotal to a healthy life. Working out is not enough. Plan out and prepare your food with lots of variety. Don’t be afraid to indulge every once in a while and remember that portion control makes all the difference. Forcing yourself to be hungry will only hurt your success. Following these tried and tested rules will keep you on track and eating clean.