Julia’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Clean Eating…and Stuffed Bell Peppers!

“You are what you eat.” “Abs are made in the kitchen.” “You can’t out-train a bad diet.”

You’ve all heard it in one form or another. And it’s true, unless you have an amazing metabolism (in which case I’m super jealous of you), you’re not going to reap the full benefits of your exercise program without eating well along with it. Plus, we like our bodies, right? So why not be nice to them and give them things that will make them happy?

So what does this mean? What should you eat? Should you eat less? More? High protein? Low carbs? No fat? With all of the diets and products out there, it’s no wonder everyone is confused…who wouldn’t be?

Well, in this post, I’m going to tell you what I eat. I’m not a nutritionist and I’m not saying that everyone should do as I do, but this is what works for me. And guess what, I feel good AND I enjoy what I’m eating. Isn’t that what really matters?

But before I get down to business, I have something VERY IMPORTANT to share. Ok, not really. I just needed an excuse to embarrass my friends by posting these pictures that I received via text on Saturday.


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Oh, yeah. That happened. Oh, and I’m supposed to be very clear about the fact that they are making fun of people who take “gym selfies.” Because apparently that makes this acceptable.

What’s a “gym selfie?” You know, those people who should be working out but instead are too busy taking pictures of themselves in the mirror. Still don’t know what I’m talking about? Well don’t worry, I took one of my own.

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 Not laughing yet? How about  now?

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Ok, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, I can focus on the real subject of this post, which was…oh yes, eating. Ok, here goes. Apologies in advance for a lengthy post. If you’re just looking for the recipe, I’ve buried it all the way at the bottom so just keep scrolling.

I’m going to list a few (relatively) simple rules of thumb that guide my eating habits. I will probably link out to other articles, especially as it regards to more “scientific” subject matter, because I do not have a science background and would probably only confuse you (and myself) more.

Eat REAL food. What does this mean? Try to avoid anything that is processed. How can you tell if it’s processed? Well, first off, if you see a commercial for it on TV, it’s probably not natural. Check the ingredients. Is there a long list of things that you don’t understand? Is sugar an ingredient? If the answer to these questions is yes, then it’s most likely processed. Real foods include fruits, veggies, meats, poultry, fish, eggs, etc. Basically, if you stick to the perimeter of the  grocery store when you do your shopping, you’ll be able to avoid the processed things. I realize you can’t do this 100% of the time, but if you do it 80% of the time, you’ll notice a huge difference in how you feel. I promise.

Don’t fear the fat. This could be an entire post on it’s own. People think that in order to lose fat they need to eat fat free foods. This is simply not true. Fat plays several important roles in our diet from making us feel full to improving our mental states and energy levels. Fat is especially important if you’re on a low carb diet, because while protein will help to build muscle, your body needs something to run on for fuel! If you’re interested in reading more about this issue, I would recommend reading this.

Grain or no grain? Avoiding grains, particularly gluten, seems to be an emerging trend, and some may wonder whether or not they should jump on the gluten-free bandwagon. Basically, gluten causes an inflammatory response in the body, even in those who do not have Celiac disease One of my favorite bloggers, the Petite Athleat, gives a great breakdown of the benefits of not eating gluten as well as a breakdown of the alternatives to wheat flour – almond vs. coconut – here. Well, I decided to give the whole gluten free diet a whirl and have been avoiding gluten, for the most part, for the past 3 months, and I can say I’ve never felt better. My digestive issues have gone away (that alone is enough for me to never eat wheat again), I have more energy and fewer cravings and as an added bonus, I’ve leaned out a bit. 

Drink more water. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before. It’s very important to stay hydrated. This will help keep you full, give you that youthful glow you try so desperately to achieve through bronzer and blush, keep your muscle energized and mostly importantly, keep you “regular.” Need I say more? For those stuck behind a desk like me, I recommend keeping a glass of water at your desk and getting up to refill each time it’s empty. This also serves as a reminder to get up and stretch your legs every once and a while.

Limit your alcohol intake. We all know that excessive alcohol consumption leads to weight gain. Remember the Freshman 15? Yeah. Obviously, if you’re trying to lose weight, cutting out alcohol altogether would maximize your results. But we’re all human and after a long week, we need a drink. Or two. Or three… If we’re going to drink, why not choose something that has some health benefits? I actually stumbled upon a useful article the other day that outlines the health benefits (or lack of benefits) of each type of alcohol. All I can say is, bring on the red wine and whisky.

So now you’re thinking, that’s great and all, but what do I eat?!

Well, your grocery cart might look something like this.

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Ok, so what do I do with all this food? Won’t it go bad? Don’t you spend a lot of money on groceries? Have no fear! I have a solution!

Prep your meals in advance. This is crucial if you don’t want to waste food and money. I usually do my grocery shopping and prepare my lunches for the week on Sundays. I’ll cook all of the fresh food that I buy (because there’s nothing worse than wasting food), and then portion everything out into tupperware containers. Voila, 5 days of lunch! It can get a little boring eating the same thing every day, but I try to include a variety of veggies/proteins and change up the “dressings” that I use – alternating between avocado, hummus and salsa – to keep my taste buds happy.

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Freeze food. If you are afaid that something will go bad, just pop it in the freezer! No food wasted!

Portion out your snacks. This is a great way to avoid eating that entire container of mango that you bought in one sitting.

Trader Joe’s is a godsend. I don’t know how it is in other parts of the country, but if it weren’t for TJs, I would be seriously broke. Their prices are absolutely unbeatable.

Get creative. There are TONS of easy recipes out there that you can make with just a few simple ingredients! Google is your friend people, use it. 

People often ask what I eat in a typical day. While food and nutrient intake is dependent on a million different factors (body mass index, basal metabolic rate, body composition, allergens) as well as your goals – do you want to lose fat, build muscle, maintain – here is what an average weekday of eating looks like for me. Keep in mind that I workout at 6:30am every morning (crossfit or HIIT) and then sit at a desk from 9am-6pm each day before walking the mile home to my apartment.

5:30am Pre-workout pancake + cup of coffee
8:00am Post-workout protein shake (1 banana, 1 scoop whey protein powder, unsweetened vanilla almond milk/water)
9:30am 2 hard boiled eggs, 1/2 small sweet potato, 2 slices Applegate Farms turkey
11:00am String cheese
1:30pm Bowl of assorted roasted veggies (brussel sprouts, carrots, mushrooms) on bed of spinach or kale, 5 roasted sweet potato “chips”, 4 turkey meatballs (I make mine without the oats), topped with hummus/avocado/salsa
4:00pm Apple with almond butter
7:30pm Scrambled eggs with spinach, tomatoes, bacon, mushrooms and goat cheese or pancakes topped with Greek yogurt and blueberries

And finallyyyyyyyy, a recipe!

Last Friday, I had a couple of friends over and we made stuffed bell peppers for dinner. They were absolutely amazing so I thought I would share this delicious recipe with you.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

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You will need:

3 large red bell peppers

Filling:

1 lb lean ground turkey

1 small onion, chopped

1 cup spinach leaves

1 cup mushrooms, chopped

Sauce:

2 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1 tbsp stone ground mustard

Splash of vinegar (white or balsamic both work)

Seasonings of choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut bell peppers in half, lengthwise, and discard seeds and membranes. Wrap in foil, place on baking sheet or in casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes.

While the peppers are baking, cook ground turkey in skillet until browned. Remove from skillet and sautee onion, mushrooms and spinach in olive oil. Once veggies are cooked, combine with turkey. Mix sauce ingredients together in a small bowl, then add to turkey/veggie mixture. Remove peppers from oven and stuff.

Place stuffed peppers back in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.

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Enjoy!

I hope this was somewhat helpful. As always, let me know if you have any questions/comments/concerns!

Until next time,

Julia

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