Lifehacks for a Clean Diet: How to Eat Well on a Busy Schedule

Tanell Pretorius and Amy Van Beek have worked out ways to eat well, even when time is short.

We—Amy Van Beek, sustainable living advocate and entrepreneur, and Tanell Pretorius, health coach and fitness enthusiast—have joined forces to let you in on the daily nutritional habits that allow us to maintain healthy lifestyles while managing careers, families, and crammed schedules. We hope that these tips—acquired through trial and error, extensive research, and personal mentors—will help guide you in making a healthier lifestyle more effortless.

Create Healthy Lifestyle Goals

To start out, it’s important to set realistic, achievable goals. Focus on what you can add to your diet, rather that what you should remove or avoid. Real life requires us to be flexible and adaptive, and nourishing ourselves should be the same way. We eat on average 35 times each week: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks daily. If your goal is to cook five healthy, delicious meals per week, you can easily add 20 nourishing meals over a month’s time.

Instead of rigid dieting, find balance with your food intake. No one wants to give up parties and dining out. Instead, be conscientious and make the previous meal lighter and healthier to compensate. Or you might find that the day after a celebration your hunger is naturally less. Opt for a day of soups and juices to allow your digestion to catch up.

This small practice will not only bring you in touch with your body’s signals but can also eliminate weight fluctuation in the long term. By balancing your food intake, you will no longer have to feel guilty about a little extra indulgence.

What Needs to Be on Your Plate

With so much dietary advice out there ranging from veganism to paleo, choosing what to eat can be complicated and confusing. In his book Food Rules, Michael Pollan suggests, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Healthy meals should be centered around real, whole foods: fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains or complex carbohydrates (i.e., squash and sweet potatoes), proteins, and healthy fats. Make sure that your plate always contains the major building blocks that your body needs to function fully. When you’re properly nourished, you’ll no longer have excessive cravings.

Say Goodbye to Processed Food

Processing food changes its chemical components. The fresher your food, the more vital life force it contains, which then gets transferred to your body. Don’t get caught up with the marketing on the package—if it’s processed, it will never compare to whole food.

People with food allergies or intolerances often become enamored with the gluten-free, sugar-free options that processed foods can offer, but don’t fall for that trap—they’re not any healthier for you. Whole foods courtesy of Mother Nature have everything you need without nasty preservatives and additives.

Where to Shop

Find a local grocer that actively searches out the highest quality of fresh goods and local produce. Visit your local farmers market or join a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) for the very freshest, just-picked produce. Pay attention to colors and textures and let that guide your choice of what to put in your basket.

Skills in the Kitchen

Celebrity chef and author Candice Kumai says in her book Clean Green Eats, “Beautiful women don’t diet, beautiful women learn to cook.” Most people think that healthy food is boring and unsatisfying. But creating delicious meals is simply a matter of bringing out the inherent flavors of various foods. If you approach cooking with the right attitude, it can be fun, creative, and even relaxing. When you come home from work, try putting on your favorite music to prepare a tasty dinner for friends or family.

To ensure that you get sufficient vitamins and minerals in your meals, include lots of fresh vegetables. Vegetables, in fact, should make up the majority of your plate. Be adventurous and try new ones! For more variety, change up the way you cook them: they can be steamed, roasted with a drizzle of oil, added to stir-fries, or served raw.

Not sure what to cook? Throwing together a food bowl is a quick and satisfying option for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Aim for a base of 50 percent vegetables, and then include protein, legumes, or whole grains, add healthy fats, and finish with a good sauce or seasoning. Get some creative alchemy going in the kitchen! Focus on colors and textures in your combinations. Some of our favorite bowl ingredients include leafy greens such as spinach, kale or collards; a good protein such as fish, seasoned lentils, or soft boiled eggs; whole grains such as quinoa or heirloom rice; and a topping of goat cheese, nuts, or avocado. Try seasoning with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh chopped herbs, or thinly sliced green onion.

Drink Your Fruits & Vegetables

Juicing allows you to pack a ton of micronutrients into your diet. Fiber-rich smoothies are a heartier option as a meal replacement for breakfast or lunch on the go. If you have a sensitivity to high quantities of insoluble fiber, juicing is a great way to enjoy hearty greens without upsetting your digestion. Green juices are very alkalizing, so they neutralize acidity in your body. Load your juices and smoothies with lots of greens and minimize sugary fruits.

You’ll Feel Great!

Eating well is important. It’s not just about the number on the scale—it’s also about your body’s ability to fight inflammation, maintain energy, and resist disease. If you start with a few healthy habits, soon you won’t need willpower to stay on your plan. Your incentive will be borne from how amazing you feel.

See Tanell and Amy’s tips for creating a fast Meal in a Bowl.